What I Learned From Elephants

It's hard for me to respect the guy in a the rickety car who was next to me at the stop light.  I watched him (twice) throw something out of his window towards my car that I can only assume were boogers. 

Being raised by a family that went out of its way to be inclusive and respectful of all people, I could see how my booger judgement might put me in a position of hypocrisy.  Although we were a family who complained about each other, we were never allowed to say mean things about the neighbors. We were encouraged to think creatively about the situations that life brings and not assume the worst about someone. 

Growing up I remember feeling ashamed of myself when I judged someone.  So why as an adult do I enter into it so freely.  So carelessly. 

Did you know that female elephants live in groups of about 30 and take care of each other (bathe, share food, socialize, and help with each others calves)? I read the article, The Meanest Girls at the Watering Hole, written by Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell, an expert on elephants and faculty member at Standford University School of Medicine. 

She's been studying elephants and wrote about one of her observations of a pack of elephants in Africa.  One of the elephants (named Wynona), along with the Wynona's son, daughter, and granddaughter were being cut off from the spring where they access fresh water by another elephant in the pack. The rest of the pack was able to drink except for Wynona and her family, who were forced to the muddy part of the water source. 

While the article goes into detail about how the pack began excluding Wynona and her family, this separation is what researches call fission.  Elephant packs experience both fusion and fission.  For example in places where poaching is prevalent, lone elephants have come together and created new packs for protection and socialization (fusion).  While other packs push out the elephants they view as less than, forcing them out of the pack (fission). 

This article makes me think we might be a society of elephant tendencies.  We've all had a time when our ugly side was reared.  We've judged, we've pushed out, and we've been mean.  But it doesn't mean that we have to keep being that way.  I don't want to be the mean girl at the watering hole. I want my life to be marked by love and encouragement.


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