June 1, 2016

Harambe: A Lesson on Compassion from a Tragically Deceased Gorilla.

 Harambe 2 youtube screenshot

For those out of the news loop this past week, a four-year-old child slipped through protective barriers and fell into a moat in a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.

One elephant journal writer wrote about it eloquently here.

Today, I awaken to more news of the parents being under a police investigation—and it hasn’t been determined yet if criminal charges will be placed. Following that, I read vile criticism continuing to mount toward the parent of the four-year old-boy for allowing this to happen.

As the previously linked writer stated, and I could attest as a professional who has worked with families from all walks of life and has also parented nine children—but for the grace of Beyoncé go you or I.

As parents, we are all vulnerable to actions or oversights that could change our lives in one split second that, in hindsight, might have been avoided. That is the chalice we parents drink from and why so many parents struggle with anxiety—it’s a heavy chalice.

Interestingly, many of the biggest critics of the parents claim that the gorgeous, endangered silverback gorilla’s life should have been spared, risking the life of a four-year-old, because he appeared to be protecting the child. Observers are moved by the compassion they feel is being shown by Harambe toward the child.

In the same second, compassion dissolves in their mouth and these Harambe “advocates” dispense of any compassion when considering the parents. They bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the fact that active toddlers have a cloud of “accident” around them. How many horrific tragedies have you heard that involved a toddler, a parent and a vehicle in their own driveway?

The thing is, there are two truths here.

Harambe could, on some level, have been trying to protect this wee child and he could have killed him in the process.

From the video of the incident, Harambe’s supernatural strength is evident as the boy is flung around like a dish rag; it’s amazing the boy didn’t suffer a more severe head injury or worse. And yes, I, too am moved by the split second where it looks like Harambe and the boy may be quietly connecting.

Life is full of beautiful lessons from unfortunate events.

If you believe Harambe was acting out of compassion, then please try taking a lesson from a gorilla and show some compassion to this mother and her family who did not throw their child in this enclosure. They also hurt deeply right now for this gorgeous animal while celebrating the miracle that their child survived the ordeal.

One of my Facebook friends is a life-long zookeeper and the only commentary I have seen him make is a meme stating:

“Welcome to the internet where no one has zookeeping experience but everyone knows how a situation ‘should’ have been handled.”

That, from a gentle zookeeper whose comrades would now be on trial by the same naysayers if the zoo had not intervened and a four-year-old child had died.

Let’s walk through this life with compassion that allows us to see with our hearts before judging with our critical voices.


Author: Becky-Aud Jennison

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Youtube



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