Let’s be honest. By now, you’ve heard the story of the tragic killing of Harambe, the silverback gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo. If you haven’t heard the story, the rock you’re living under must be treating you real nice.
This isn’t written for the mom of the boy who fell in with Harambe over the weekend, there are plenty of beautiful letters written to her, but this is for you, the reader.
So reader, do you know the definition of grace?
Grace, n: The exercise of compassion, love, kindness. Undeserved, unmerited, and unearned favor.
As far as what I’ve seen, the internet is on a rage and we have gorilla experts and parenting experts fresh from Google University weighing in on this whole ordeal. But, I must say, I haven’t seen any compassion, love, or kindness. At all.
You know why? Because we as a human race lack empathy. We do. It’s a harsh world out there and everyone is only out for themselves. Our empathy tank is empty. We want our voices to be heard, we want to always be right, we want our coffee as quickly as possible, and we don’t care or slow down enough to extend grace.
Now, when I first heard this story, I was upset that the child could break barriers and I placed the blame on lack of adult supervision. That was my stance and I was sticking to it. But, I realized after a few days how wrong I was. I have the word “grace” tattooed on my arm, for heaven’s sake! And I was blaming the mama and I wasn’t even there! How dare I?!
Kids are curious, active, busy, and hello: FAST, and the fact that a 4 year old breached a barrier meant to protect us from WILD ANIMALS should be everyone’s outrage! How?! It should NEVER have been able to be done, especially by a 4 year old! Kids are kids, accidents happen. Trust me, I’m a preschool teacher, I know. One of my students fell down and busted her chin this year and required a 911 call, an ambulance ride, and 10 stitches in her itty bitty chin. Do you know how I felt as her teacher?! Like crap. Does that mean I suck as a teacher and I should be shot because I didn’t have my eyes on her when she fell while under my care? No! Grace, people.
How do you think that mom felt watching her baby in there? Let me tell you, she had more self-control than I would’ve had. I would’ve been up in there with that gorilla begging him to let my baby go, and we’d be worrying about the “hows” later. I hate that Harambe had to die, but what was the alternative? Everyone stand around and drink a cup of coffee while we watched it play out?
I’m sure that poor mama has replayed this in her mind a trillion times. I’m sure she feels like an utter failure. But her baby. is. ok. Why isn’t that ok with everyone?! Because we lack grace.
You want to know why moms in this country are bat-shit crazy?! Why they spend co-pays sitting on therapist’s couches wondering if they are a good mom? Because they are under the microscope constantly! Ev-er-y thing they do is criticized by complete and total strangers on the world wide web. How about we stop judging them for breastfeeding, cosleeping, working, not working, feeding them organic, taking them to McDonald’s, and go pour ourselves a big, hot, cup of grace and INVITE THEM OVER?
grace for the zookeepers.
grace for the 4 year old child and his sense of adventure.
grace for the mama.
Compassion. Love. Kindness.
You may not have lost your child in the primate exhibit, but I’m pretty sure your child has given you the heart attack of being gone in the blink of an eye. I’m sure your child has fallen and scraped their knee or busted their chin. Or had something happen to them that makes you feel so utterly guilty it’s hard to swallow. If not, thank your lucky stars.
We can choose how we go forward from here and what we can learn the next time a big story like this is sensationalized. This woman doesn’t deserve death threats. She doesn’t deserve her kids to be taken away from her. She doesn’t deserve every skeleton in her closet to be portrayed as if we’re pinning a scarlet letter on her in the middle of the town square. She deserves our grace, even if you think it’s undeserved. We don’t know what happened that day. No, really, you don’t, so get over it. The only thing we do know is that a child is alive. And there’s a mama out there who needs the world to forgive her and love her.
So, you have a choice. Grab your hot-iron pitchfork or grab your shovelful of grace.