Elephants Can Teach Us

Juanita - Livonia, Michigan
Entered on April 16, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

It has been over thirty years and I can still remember my first and only elephant ride at the zoo. Sitting atop this beautiful creature was very exciting and sad. When the ride was finished I gave the elephant the biggest hug I could bestow upon her and whispered, “thank you.” My dad asked if I had a good time and I burst into tears. He looked very confused and calmed me down so I could talk. I was finally able to choke out that I felt sorry for the elephant and she looked sad walking in that circle giving rides, it just didn’t seem right. I will never forget the deep sorrow I felt that day.

I have always felt all animals deserve a good humane life especially elephants because they are my favorite. I didn’t know how to get involved with helping elephants because I didn’t think anybody felt the same compassion for them like I do, that is until recently. I found out about The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and here they provide a refuge for elephants.

It occurred to me that although elephants are my favorite animal I knew very little about them, so I read the sanctuary website about these beautiful gentle giants and I was in tears by their life before the sanctuary. The wonderful thing is they have been given a second chance to live like an elephant should—free. I immediately wanted to get more involved, so I signed up for a volunteer workday at the sanctuary.

My day began with four other volunteers and one of the co-founders of the sanctuary. We were told that we probably wouldn’t see an elephant, but if we did we were not allowed any interaction because this is their sanctuary, all 2,700 acres of it. Our project was to take down old fencing. I thought how much fence could there be? Well, when you’re talking about fencing for an elephant sanctuary, it’s a lot! This was very intense work. The group snipped, clipped and rolled up the fencing to be used for another project if needed. I never knew I could sweat so much, but it was worth every minute. Sadly the day was over and now that I had stopped working I realized how tired I was, but it didn’t matter because I helped the elephants today.

The only elephants I saw that day were from a distance, one of them trumpeted and I cried. I felt honored to have walked on their sanctuary grounds. Then I remembered that day thirty years ago, my first and only elephant ride; maybe one of these elephants was her and somehow I paid her back for that ride, I could only hope.

I believe that elephants teach us forgiveness, acceptance, love and that they deserve “true” sanctuary to roam freely like elephants should. They have taught me to live life to its fullest and not to let the past keep you from enjoying what lies ahead.