Posts Tagged ‘discovery’

What's with the elephant bums?

April 9, 2008 2 comments

Well, no one has asked me that yet… but I’ll answer it anyway. Last fall I spent four weeks volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Northern Thailand. I was an amazing learning experience for me. The volunteer work ranged from shoveling elephant and buffalo poo to repairing fences to unloading food trucks to building a giant compost pit.

In my 20s i went through a lot of self-discovery – as to most 20-somethings. My four-week volunteer stint exposed me to the same excitement and growth that experienced when I was in my 20s.

I like being put in the position of being the novice. It’s a humbling opportunity we should never snub. Walking into a situation in a new culture, with new people, and without the tangible skills to complete the jobs allowed me to dig deep and tap into skills that I use every day but don’t think about – because they aren’t hard, tangible skills…

  • Flexibility – No hammer to drive that nail. No problem, how about the side of an axe? Pouring rain cutting into our grass planting time? That’s ok, we’ll fix some railings in a sheltered area instead. Small setbacks are only setbacks if you let them be. Schedules can be rearranged, tools can be modified with an open mind.
  • Communication – I don’t speak Thai or Dutch or Spanish (very well), but everyone understands a smile and the laughter that goes with the effort of trying to say Thank you in their language. Make the effort to communicate with someone in their preferred style. That effort goes a long way.
  • Patience – An elephant will only move as fast as an elephant wants. When we take the elephants on a walk (no… not like you take a dog for a walk), we moved at the pace of the elephants. It gave me a chance to look around, watch the people, observe the landscape, and have a conversation. Slowing down helps us all. We can catch our breath, take in all the good things around us, and enjoy the moment. Schedules and deadlines are necessary, but so is taking the time to appreciate all that you have around you.

So… for now, my banner is two cute, wrinkly, elephant bums.