For the past two days, I have read waaaaay too many articles on this gorilla. I would be embarrassed to count them or to count the hours I have spent reading about him–and the dishes in my sink and laundry strewn throughout my house prove it. Of course by now we are all quite aware of the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo in which the 4-year-old boy trespassed the exhibit boundary and fell into the moat of the gorilla enclosure…resulting in the (dare I say) murder of a 17-year old silverback facing extinction.
This post is not another opinion about what happened. Lord knows there are experts for that. This post is not so much about the incident, but what I realized in my time reading about it:
We are all so eager to cast stones.
When this story first broke, my Facebook feed lit up like the rest of yours, I’m sure. And I was one of the first to pick up stones to throw at the negligence of “some” parent(s). But then as the day progressed, I recalled one afternoon ten years ago when my responsible husband and I could not find our son Henry on the beach. He may have even been four years old… like the child in the gorilla enclosure. That memory of panic that my ‘split-second-negligence’ might have stolen the life of my child… well, it hit me like a brick. I was completely convicted. So I dropped my stone.
Anyone who really knows me knows how much I love animals. For heaven’s sake, I think my last five posts have either been about my Dad (who recently left for Eternity) or BIRDS, of all things. Even just this weekend, I was holding some tiny bug in my hand, telling Mark to look at how cute his little face was (he indulged me by looking and agreeing). Actually, I fear that I’m getting rather obsessed about nature and all the little creatures–but I pardon myself by blaming it on my son Henry and his sweet influence in my life. (Bug lives matter, too, I suppose.)
So when this majestic, gorgeous, intelligent, remarkable beast’s life was ended because of nothing HE had done…but only because of something a HUMAN had done… well, I flipped out like most of the people spewing their hatred on the internet. And then I had to remind myself: I had dropped my stone and I wasn’t going to pick it back up again.
- I am not going to join the mindset that the parents should have been shot instead of the gorilla. (Seriously, people?!)
- I am not going to agree that a curious (and yes, disobedient) four year old child would have ‘gotten what he deserved’ had he been badly injured. (Once again, what is happening to us as a human race that we think this is even acceptable to say?!)
- And no, I am not going to agree with demonizing and denouncing the zoo staff and administration. They are obviously the ones most crushed by this horrendous incident. I mean, think about it…
So I am not casting my stone.
Instead, I will respectfully mourn the life of Harambe…
and in his death, I will learn from him.
Because do you know what his name means?
“All pull together.”
Harambe is a Swahili word that means:
ALL. PULL. TOGETHER.
And that is the last thing we as a human race are doing at this point in humanity.
We are arguing over everything right now.
You name it, we are arguing over it. We are casting stones. We are giving one another anything– everything–but GRACE. But MERCY. But FORGIVENESS.
We are a generation who are, by golly, chomping at the bit to cast our stones.
And I am guilty of it as well. But I worship a God who knew we were prone to it. Prone to casting stones. And rather than judgmental, self-righteous indignation… He has called us to peace. And in the new law that is in Christ, He set an example for us when:
…He went to the Mount of Olives.
Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.
But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them,
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” ~ John 8:1-11
Drop your stone. Instead, follow the light. Do not judge, Shannon. That has been my internal monologue the past 24 hours.
Oh, how I have cried over Harambe… multiple times. Yes, I have wished that the parents of that child seemed as remorseful over that innocent gorilla’s preventable death as they have been grateful over their child being saved through it. I do not know what would have happened had Harambe been tranquilized. I do not know what would have happened had he not been killed. But I do shudder to think of a child’s life being taken at his hands, even unintentionally. A child. I cannot even imagine the vitriol, had this story turned out differently. But one thing I do know, is that it is not my place to judge.
And one promise I can look forward to is a peaceable Kingdom. One that was envisioned at the beginning of time — and will one day come to be an eternal reality. One in which the wolf will lie down with the lamb, the lion and calf together… and one in which a four-year-old boy can rest safely in the arms of a gorilla named Harambe.
And until that day comes, I pray for the restraint to leave my stone on the ground. For that is where it belongs.
A beautiful photo exhibit of Harambe can be found at one of his greatest admirer’s pages. Robert Streithorst frequently visited the Cincinnati Zoo and photographed his favorite creature there. His photography will be appearing on The Today Show on 6/1/16. I hope he does not mind me sharing and accrediting his images to him here In The Messy. If so, I will of course remove them. 😉
A favorite post I read today was by someone who actually has the right to be speaking on the matter: a former gorilla caretaker, Amanda O’Donoughue. I am thankful for her tender perspective.
And Jack Hanna’s opinion matters, of course.
As well as these beautiful words by Dan Van Coppenolle, the man who gave Harambe his name…
Thank you, Harambe.