I’ve sat on this one forever. Not an elephant. I have ridden one before. It was like being on a second-story leather couch. Kind of stinky. No, I’ve been sitting on this post, one I wanted to write about elephants – and not their couch-like qualities and aromas.
Months ago, I wanted to write about elephants and the lessons we could learn from them.
Life got in the way. Coaching, deadlines, commutes and being a dad. Time spent confused and busy and resentful for not being able to be here. Those days are gone for now, and even though I’m a day late on this post, it’s live, isn’t it? (Two days, technically.)
It’s an homage to a mammal high on intelligence and low on sports mascot recognition.
Alabama’s Crimson Tide has Big Al, a lumbering pachyderm mascot. (Back in the day, a fan yelled “hold your horses, the elephants are coming” before the Tide took the field, and the mascot was born. Lucky for ‘Bama fans he didn’t reference muskrats or guinea pigs.)
Also, I can’t say in a friendly voice to a cashier that I don’t want my jug of milk bagged in plastic, let alone double bagged, and then it still happens. Anyway …
The elephant in every room
The Oakland A’s also sport a logo patch with an elephant balancing on a baseball with three legs while wielding a baseball bat. New York Giants manager John McCraw purportedly disparaged the Athletics by calling them “white elephants.”
The sentiment stuck (although the logo is green.) Here are three traits of elements humankind should consider adapting.
1. Thick skin
It’s thick in spirit only. The African elephant’s skin can be as thick as 1.6 inches, which isn’t a lot, for a soul that weighs as much as 13,000 pounds. It just means the skin has lots of work to do.
We should develop such thick skin in spirit. We’re quick to be offended. We listen for words, markers of behavior that we’re convinced stem from an intolerance or hatred of who we are. We also allow pointed criticism to derail us when the time calls for strength and endurance.
2. Padded feet
An elephant walks on tiptoes under a fleshy foot that includes a fatty, connective tissue. The pad serves to quiet an elephant’s approach while providing sure-footedness on its journey.
We should develop a similar approach to life. Enter into conflicts and developments and our everyday with humility and strength. I’m reminded of the Alabama football player who hoisted a championship belt on the sideline – in the third quarter of a seven-point game. That’s neither humble nor strong.
Elephants possess keen senses. Their hearing range far surpasses that of humans. They can sense danger coming through their feet and seem to have a better general awareness than we do.
Sensitive doesn’t mean easily bruised, physically or otherwise. It does mean altruism and compassion. It does mean feeling grief, a desire to play, and self-awareness. How many of us read posts on The Elephant Journal to find just those coveted attributes?
4. Hear more
It’s like the elephant in the room: Elephants’ ears. They’re – huge. They’re used as a cooling device when fanned, and to intimidate adversaries when fanned out. Most of all, elephants can hear so much because of their size.
We’re given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Humans trail in the listening category. What if we weren’t thinking about what we would say next when people talk to us? What if we took out our earbuds and listened to the sounds around us, natural and man-made?
5. Greeting ceremonies
Check this out:
How many times in the past week have you passed someone at the store or at work, or had a co-worker or family member sit down near you, and you didn’t even look up? In hospitality, there’s something called the 5 and 10 Rule.
It states if another person comes within 10 feet of you, you greet them with eye contact and a warm smile. If they come within 5 feet, you add a sincere greeting to the eye contact and smile. I’m not suggesting we rub trunks on a friend’s eye like these elephants do …
But acknowledgment of people around us? Is it that hard? Is it too torturous to extend that kindness to people whose paths cross ours? To smile and say good morning when they get there, God bless you when they sneeze, and let’s go to lunch as early as 11:13 a.m.?
I won’t soon become fox- sly, owl-wise or oxen strong. I can, however, borrow a few noble traits from a few of my tusk-wielding, ear-flapping, friend-greeting pachyderms, and that sounds pretty slick to me.