Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Please, Don't Be Quick To Judge

I try and stay away from anything remotely political or religious on here, but I have to take a moment to speak up. My heart is breaking over the news of the death of Western Lowland Gorilla Harambe and the enormous loss of this critically endangered animal. I am a bleeding heart for animals and the proper treatment of them and was even a hard core vegetarian for almost 2 years. However, my heart is also breaking for the mother of the little boy who was in the enclosure with Harambe for almost 15 minutes. Let me share my own zoo experience with you and maybe your heart will soften just a little bit for her.

It was about 20 years ago, and we decided to take the kids to the zoo for the day: our son was about 7 and our daughter 4. We had been there for a few hours, had a picnic lunch, and enjoyed the sunny afternoon. We were cleaning up and getting ready to go when we suddenly realized that our son had disappeared. This literally took less 30 seconds as I was throwing some garbage away. Just like that I didn't know where he was, and I panicked. You would think that in that short amount of time a kid wouldn't get very far, but the zoo was very crowded and we didn't see him anywhere. We checked the bathrooms, the neighboring exhibits and asked the people around us if they had seen him. Nothing.

Full on panic mode at this point! Aaron ran to the car to see if he happened to go there. Since we had gotten separated, and knowing that we were getting ready to leave, we thought that is where he might head; I stayed put in case he came back. No dice. We frantically looked around that zoo for an entire hour! It was was one of the longest, worst hours of my life.

Finally after an hour of looking we found him over at the Orangutan exhibit. He wanted to see the Orangutans one more time before we left. Now, at the time my son was very head strong and had a naughty streak, but he was also very cautious and worrisome, so fortunately he was just quietly sitting on the outside watching. However, if he were more adventuresome and a "jump first think second" kind of kid like his sister was,  who's to say that he wouldn't have tried to climb the barrier to get a closer look.  I didn't know whether to spank him or hug him the little brat!

So, here are the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind the last few days on the tragedy that took Harambe's life. I CANNOT blame the mother. If you have raised any kids yourself you know it only takes one very quick instant for things to happen. I don't know the events that transpired right before her tiny three year old fell into the moat of the enclosure. Maybe her baby in the stroller started to cry and she turned her attention there for a second to pick it up. Like me, she could have just been over throwing something in the trash super quick. Is it possible that she was not paying attention to her kid as well as she should have been? Well, yes, I know many parents like that - but I don't know and I refuse to judge her on what I don't know.

I cannot imagine the panic, heartache and hell she went through watching her child be thrown around by a 400 pound animal. The helplessness she felt. That could very easily have been me 20 years ago when I lost my child in the zoo... and I was an extremely attentive parent - especially in public places.

It is a tragedy that this amazing animal had to die? YES!!! Do I wish things could have been different? MOST DEFINITELY!! Do I blame the mother? Absolutely NOT! I'm sure she is doing enough of that on her own without having me, and everyone else in the world yelling at her at how horrible of a parent she is. I'm sure she will live with this the rest of her life.

I think each of us have moments in our lives that we wish we could live over; that one second we could take back and change. Even the best of parents have moments they regret - moments that we wish we could do over, change, or delete from our experiences. Unfortunately life doesn't have a control Z button. I always raised my kids with the thought that your entire life can change with one decision, and one moment. Unfortunately for this mother, her one moment was so tragic that the entire world is turning against her.

So, yes, my heart is heavy over this story. Both for poor Harambe who had to lose his life just doing what gorillas do and for the poor mother who has to live with this tragedy for the rest of her life. It could have happened to any of us, and I will not judge her because of that.

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