What If? Don’t Judge Without Walking in Another’s Shoes

One of the trending stories on Facebook this weekend was the unfortunate and tragic incident at the Cincinnati Zoo and the death of the Gorilla Harambe. I have read several articles, news clips and stories in regards to this sad and unfortunate incident and I find myself frustrated with much of what I have read. Of course, I am sure that some people will feel frustrated with what I am about to write as well and that’s OK.

First of all, I am saddened that this beautiful creature and 17 year old Gorilla died. There is not one ounce of celebration to be found in the death of Harambe and I certainly can empathize with the many people out there that are saddened and outraged at what could be perceived as the senseless and untimely death of this magnificent animal. With that being said, I am absolutely blown away by the blame, anger and judgement that has been directed towards the Zoo and even worse the mother of the little boy.

It never fails to amaze me at how quick to judge human beings are and quite often the things that are judged the most are things that people have never experienced themselves. It is like anything in life, how can anyone and I mean anyone, judge another in fairness without first walking in their shoes? It is IMPOSSIBLE to truly understand one’s actions or the decisions made without having been in that same situation and yet, we live in a society that is drowning and dripping in judgement every day.

I am just one person with my own thoughts and opinions and for any person reading this, I certainly do not expect you to agree or disagree; that is your choice but as I tossed and turned during the middle of the night, I felt compelled to write and express some of my thoughts in and around this latest attack on the mother of this little kid that I would guess is quite traumatized. Death threats, really?

By most accounts, I have read that “Harambe was trying to protect the boy and was not going to hurt him”. While I would love to believe that this is true, there is simply NO WAY to know that for sure. Harambe is still a wild and unpredictable Gorilla captured in a setting that is unnatural and when presented with a human of any age, it would be impossible to know how he would react had more time been allowed to pass by. The size alone of a Gorilla would be cause for concern and even if the intent was not to harm the child, there was a strong risk that the child could have been severely injured or god forbid killed. My instincts tell me that if hit by a tranquilizer dart, this Gorilla would have reacted and whether intentional or not, would have harmed or killed this innocent little boy.  Even zookeepers that tend to these amazing animals care for them with extreme caution and warned that there is good reason for the lock and key of the enclosures that separate Gorilla from man.

There are many what if’s that can be found in this story. What if the mother had been “watching” her child more closely? What if the child had not ventured off and climbed through areas he should not have been near? What if bystanders would have reacted quickly and grabbed the child before falling?  What if the Zoo would have had better security in and around the enclosure making it impossible for anyone to “fall” into the Gorilla’s protected sanctuary and home? What if the Zoo staff would have tried tranquilizing Harambe first? What if. What if. What if.

Again, it is impossible to know the answers to some of these painfully difficult questions and quite honestly,  the what if in any situation in life is a dead end and a waste of time. We will never know some of these answers and the what if game is a slippery slope to walk and stands in the way of most people being able to find closure with any situation.

For me this is a tragic situation that yes, could have possibly been avoided but like many things in life it happened and ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN and sometimes those accidents happen within a blink of an eye or a second. As much as any of us would like to believe or say that “it would never happen to me” sometimes things just do. To point fingers at, threaten and blame the mother of this little boy seems like a waste of  toxic energy nor does it change this tragic situation in the least. When things happen that leave me questioning decisions made and wondering WHY; I try as hard as I possibly can to put myself in the shoes of another. I am a parent and believe me, I am not perfect and I am constantly doing things wrong. I am humble enough to know that I have made my share of mistakes when it comes to my kids and I am certain there will be more. I was not at the Zoo, I do not know this mother, I did not witness what happened or if there was time for anyone in the vicinity to react,  I am not a Zookeeper and quite honestly, I do not know what I would do if faced with this situation. What I do know is regardless of the what or how behind the child ending up within the grasps of a very large male Gorilla, I would want to do whatever it took to try and protect and save my child’s life. Period.

My guess is that this mom did not in any way mean for this to happen and I would venture to guess was terrified and desperate to help her child. Would she do things different if given the chance? Of course she would.  Do good parents sometimes make mistakes?  Yes. Does she regret this tragedy and any part she MIGHT have played? I would hope so. That is all any of us can do when mistakes are made or things happen that we would like to erase or change. Whether a mistake was made by the mother, the zoo or anyone else that day is not the question at this point. It happened. Unfortunately, a special Gorilla is dead and FORTUNATELY, a little boy is safe and alive. I am not cold or heartless when it comes to Harambe. The death of Harambe makes me very sad but I am happy that this child survived and as a mother, I cannot help but to empathize with this woman and a situation that went very wrong on what I’m sure was supposed to be a wonderful and happy day at the zoo.

My takeaway? Unless you have walked the same exact journey in someone’s shoes, it is impossible to know what another has gone through and it is difficult to know exactly what you would do if faced with the same situation. Second, find compassion and seek empathy for all involved in this tragic situation. Learn from it and if struggling with the need to point fingers and blame, find forgiveness in your heart versus judgement. Lastly, hug your children or those you love a little tighter tonight and be thankful that they are safe and sound. I’m sure this mother is hugging her little boy really tight and thanking God that he is safe tonight. Prayers for all involved and rest in peace Harambe.

In Peace-



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