Those with an inclination towards fishing must be adept with the rod and reel. This skill, however is inversely dependent on their ability to tell a good story. People with great success catching fish either have the photographic proof after they release them, or a bucketful of fish ready for the frying pan should they keep them. No other proof is required, as the tale is in the visual or edible evidence they offer, so they need not be great story-tellers.
Those with below average skills with their chosen tools cannot provide adequate evidence of their ability. Thus, they have to have greater talent as story-tellers so that they can describe in great detail the adventure nearly snagging that big one that got away, or the time their record setting Bass was eaten–right off the line, darn it!–by a monstrous Muskie. Them that can (Can or can’t?) do it might be said, tell great stories. They might not be true tales, but what they lack in veracity they make up for in ingenuity and entertainment.
For people who like to fish, telling tall tails, er, tales, is part of the fun. They are taken with a grain of salt and enjoyed knowing that there is a grain of truth buried somewhere in there. The massive Muskie that ate their big Bass might have been a lot smaller, and the big Bass only a mini minnow, but it was eaten right off the line, so the only thing that changed was the scale of the tail, er, tale.
For some people, however, stories are told not to entertain, but to pull the wool over the listener’s ears. Sometimes they’re long tales of woe and despair. Sometimes they are tales of having been cheated or been done wrong by someone. Sometimes they are delusions built on a skewed world view or mental health issues that are beyond a person’s control. Sometimes they even contain a grain of truth buried deep within them. Always, however, they are meant to deceive the hearer by playing on their heartstrings and seeking their emotional or financial support.
I hear a fair number of these stories in my vocation. Most of the time they’re from sad souls seeking financial support; cash for a bus ticket to a job far away; money to feed their estranged family; a “just once” loan to get them on their feet after a bad patch. The tales are often heart-wrenching and hard to resist…
…but over the years I’ve learned that quite often, they are far from the truth, and recently it was only a matter of minutes before I learned I had been told an outright, bold-faced lie.
You know what? Unless I know for certain that someone’s story is absolutely false, I will help the out as best I can. Unless I know I’m absolutely being played or lied to, I will do what I can to help someone when they’re in trouble.
I do it not out of guilt, but because I can; I do it because we are called to help one another. And I do it because I would rather be called a fool for falling for a falsehood than being called unkind or un-Christlike. And sometimes, even if I know it’s a whopper of a tail, er tale, I figure it’s worth the price of admission just to having been reeled in by a few lines of great invention and imagination.