grey scale photograph of two elephant

The Memory of An Elephant

Jenny was a resident living at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. in 1999. Jenny became very excited and could hardly be contained when she was introduced to, new arrival, Shirley, an Asian elephant. Caretakers could not explain the two animals’ reactions as they embraced one another with their trunks and familiarized themselves with one another’s scents. They even traced scars on each other bodies as if it were a medical exam.   

The caretakers knew a little about Jenny’s past in the circus but knew even less about Shirley. However, it was obvious to all that these two ladies knew one another. After doing some research and digging into Jenny and Shirley’s past it was discovered that they in fact had been friends, twenty-three years earlier. Shirley was a short-term elephant brought on for a few months in the same traveling circus as Jenny. These two remarkable ladies were acquainted for a few months, but they never forgot one another. 

The elephant has an incredible and well documented memory. Over the last one hundred years scientist, researchers and animal society’s have discovered the accurate ability of elephants to recall information from previous years. This remarkable characteristic directly contributes to the success or failure of a herd which is made up of mothers and their calves.

The matriarch elephant, who generally leads the herd, decides much concerning the family’s direction and activity. A study by Scientific American, proved that elephant herds with matriarchs between the ages of fifty to fifty-five years of age had a significantly lower rate of death among their brood during times of extreme drought. This fact was due to the matriarch recalling previous droughts and the places the herd had migrated to find food and water.

Elephants also demonstrate the ability to remember both good experiences and bad. They remember injuries and even hold grudges against those who hurt them. African Elephants, for instance, react negatively towards certain smells and colors of clothing. Researchers discovered the elephant’s memories of past experiences were being triggered to recall encounters with Maasai tribesmen. The tribesmen often threw spears at the elephants to prove their manhood.

I am not much different from an elephant when it comes to memories, both good and bad. I remember good times and not so good times. I remember people who were kind as well as people who weren’t very kind, in fact they were mean. Like the elephant, I am prone to hold a grudge towards those who threw spears at me just to prove a point. Oh, the memories that break lose and roll around in our minds from time to time.  

On the other hand, at times I was the one who caused bad memories in others of my own species. I have not always been so kind. Occasionally, I threw spears of insult and sarcasm at others just to prove I was in some way superior, to prove I was a man. Honestly, I am sure there are a few people out there who I have wronged, and they might even hold a grudge towards me. When I examine these memories which come unpacked and roll around in my mind, I have remorse. I wish I could go back and make it better.

People are a lot like elephants in that we can recall both good and bad events in our lives. We are able to use memories in a wise and productive way but also in an unproductive and negative way. 1st Corinthians 13 verse 5 gives us an escape from the negative effects of grudges, “love keeps no record of wrongs.” This is a high standard for each of us to strive but a needful one. I have both hurt and been hurt. I have wounded and offended and been the victim of the same. The wisdom of not counting every wrong and offense is a necessity if we are going to be at peace with others in the present and have healthy and productive memories in our past.

The next time I am tempted to nurse a grudge against someone who threw a spear at me just to prove they were better, hopefully I will also recall those at whom I have thrown a spear. Maybe if I forgive others, then others will forgive me.

“Love keeps no record of wrongs…”

Scientific American, James Ritchie, Jan 12, 2009, | Fact or Fiction? Elephants Never Forget

Wonderopolis, Wonder of the Day #228 | Do Elephants Ever Forget?

Hide and Seek

Boasting is not always a bad observation, it can lead to significant thought. When I think of boasting, one person comes to mind immediately, my grandma. This may seem odd, but I have my reasons and in a few short paragraphs I will attempt to explain.

We never lived in the same town as my grandma, so I was only in her company for ten or twelve days my whole life, during family vacations mostly. It was during one such visit we were left for half a day or so at grandma’s house, while mom and dad went elsewhere. I must have been around eight-years-old and Adam, my brother, was six, also in our company was our cousin Mike, who was close to my age.

We stayed outside the entire day in the summer sun and all the games boys can come up with, we played. Grandma had one rule and it was simple, “Stay in the yard boys.” she would say. Almost like clockwork every thirty minutes or so grandma would come to the screen door to check on us. She wanted to get a visual of where we were and what we were up to. She was wise. I did not mind the routine surveillance; it was kind of nice seeing her at the door. It was this monitoring which caused me to come up with a new game. It is funny how kids can make a game out of just about anything and have great fun with little effort, just playing around.

The game was simple, to my shame, I proposed we hide from grandma. Her house had two doors one in the front and the other on the side. The next time grandma came to the side door we simply stepped around the corner to the front of the house out of sight. We laughed and giggled, we thought we were so smart, but it was fun. Soon, we heard the side door shut and then we stepped around to the side of the house, again out of sight. We would then laugh as grandma opened the front screen door to peer out into the yard to see her troubled grandson’s. This pattern went on and on for five or ten minutes and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

We were hiding in front of the house waiting for the side door to close and when it did, we snuck around the corner to the side. Suddenly, the side door began to open again, “What a strategy,” I thought to myself, “she had faked us out.” We hurriedly jumped around the corner of the house to the front and boy were we surprised to see grandma standing there in the door looking straight at us. She had enlisted the help of our aunt who lived with her, to catch us in our devious game. We laughed and she grinned and then said, “Boys, come on in the house.”

We reluctantly agreed, and one by one filed into the warden’s front door. Once inside, there was not much to do but watch TV, my grandma and aunt were already watching “The Walton’s”. They were always watching, “The Walton’s” or “Little House on the Prairie” always. The cable in her house was stuck in a TV marathon from the 1970’s and nothing an eight-year-old boy would be interested in was on the playlist.

We settled down onto the floor of the living room with our Match Box and Hot Wheels cars and we were content. We had only played for a few minutes before the sky grew dark, the street lights came on, and an afternoon thunderstorm began to roar outside, I guess grandma was right to bring us inside. The wind became strong and gusty, the down pour of rain made it difficult to see the street. An occasional bolt of lightning and crack of thunder made the storm exciting, but the cable never went out, we were not that lucky.

It was during the storm, while playing on the rug in front of the couch, that I began to look around the living room. The decorating was normal, kind of like my mom’s style. Grandma’s house was comfortable, warm, and inviting but on this day, I noticed a difference between her house and mine, it was the pictures. Grandma had pictures everywhere, they were on the end-tables, shelves, on the TV above “The Walton’s”, and on every wall in the house. I got up to peruse the gallery’s collection and there were pictures on every living room wall, down the hallway, in the kitchen and bedrooms, even the bathroom had pictures.

The pictures were of family mostly, black & white and color pictures of babies, toddlers, kids my age and older, and teenagers’. There were pictures of weddings, birthdays and Christmas’ gone by and there were old people a lot of old people on the walls. The pictures of the older people though were the most interesting at which to look. Grandma noticed my interest in the pictures, and she came over and began to point out and name the people. Kid’s, grandkid’s, great-grandkid’s, cousin’s, sister’s, brother’s, moms and dads all had their own special place on the wall. Many lives, years and stories were recorded in the numerous pictures in her gallery, and while the storm raged outside, my grandma and aunt led me through the house telling me of people I would never meet. The way grandma told me of the people was one of the most interesting points I remember. She told of her family and friends with kindness, love, respect, and care. She honored every single person whether they were deserving or not. Her voice made the pictures come alive and have real meaning and purpose.

Every couple of years my family would come in to visit grandma while on vacation. The only changes at her house were usually her age, health, and new pictures added to the walls. My grandma never had a lot in terms of money or possession’s. She was not well known or followed in her town and never celebrated by anyone other than friends or family. To look at her in those little old lady dresses with rolled up socks, she was simple and unassuming. Grandma could not boast of much which this world might deem valuable today, but she did not have to, her walls did the boasting for her.

“Love does not boast…” 1st Cor. 13:4