Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where's Your Elephant?

The following is a great story sent to me by a friend on the importance of not making assumptions. I have no idea of the original source...
In 1986, Mike Membre was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University.

On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Membre approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Membre worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Membre stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Membre never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Membre was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Membre and his son Cantri were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Membre, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Membre couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant.

Membre summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Membre' s legs and raised him high into the air then slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

Funny but poignant. I sit at my desk listening to conversations every day watching people walk up to their own elephants with nothing more than a vague hope or some wishful thinking. Sometimes I catch them in time. Most of the time I don't. It's a great show though.

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