2016 began with my heart being ripped from my chest. The 20-year anniversary was commemorated with a video of a beautiful creature being gunned down in the streets of Honolulu. Her name was Tyke, and she was stolen from her home in Africa and subjected to the isolation and abuse of circus life in the United States. A life that did not suit her wild spirit, and she paid the price each day of her existence. I have always had a close connection with animals. As an empath, I feel their energy. In Tyke, I felt an overwhelming sadness, anger and determination in her final moments. One after another, the gunshots rang out, bullets piercing her body. She continued to rebel with every ounce of her being. She missed her family, her home, her freedom. But her life was one of performing tricks and being ridiculed by the glittering headdress that symbolized her enslavement. She just wanted to be an elephant as she was created to be, but humans decided her role on this planet was entertainment on demand. To be stretched, stabbed, beaten and chained. I delved into her history as much as I could, and I found the true horror of human behavior. She was tied to a tree, unable to move, and a group of men beat her with sticks while onlookers applauded and took photographs. Her screams echoed across the African landscape, and her family sensed her agony and isolation. They trumpeted calls to console her, but her pain was too great. This was her story, and it shredded me from the inside out. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for not rescuing her, but I was just a little girl when she was taken. Memories flooded my mind. The one and only time I went to the circus. With no obvious physical signs to tell the true story, I knew that the elephants were being hurt. Reading Tyke’s story made me realize how right I was at such a young age. My struggles, my work suddenly felt so irrelevant. How could I be so focused on things that benefit me when our animals are subjected to torture each and every day? I sunk further into a darkness. I hated the world for doing this to our creatures. I had to do something, but the only things that came to mind would put me on their level of hatred. “There is no empathy left in this world. I need a happy ending. Please tell me there is a happy ending.” I scoured the internet for hope, and I found it…bittersweet hope. The story of Tyke triggered a world-wide response that was the catalyst for addressing the realities of circus life and other forms of human entertainment that are founded upon the torture of animals for compliance. Breaking their spirits, even separating mothers and babies, and experience that can leave a small elephant is a state of panic that can lead to death. This gave me hope, yet I was still compelled to make a contribution. But how? I know that when I commit my passion to a cause, all else is left behind. I still wanted to get my message out to the world…I felt it was necessary, yet this was a completely separate endeavor. I knew my mentor would have the wisdom I needed.
I sat next to the tranquil pond looking at the reflections on the surface. The orange-gold and yellow foliage of the cottonwood embraced me with warmth and compassion. “Child, I know your heart is broken. I also know that your heart is filled with infinite love. There is a way, for this is part of your journey. The insight came to you at a young age for a reason.”
Could it be that these two separate experiences were actually the same path? My work had felt selfish in nature, and I am one to always find ways to be selfless. Of course…. Tyke’s story and the knowledge of the elephant poaching in Africa… Both of which were revealed through happenstance. “There are no coincidences. It is all relevant.” The moment of clarity was powerful. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and now I had a new motivation for my work. A motivation that was outside my own needs. A motivation that would allow me to work on behalf of the elephants and other wildlife around the world. Now I had a selfless purpose, and I felt fulfilled. I only had to join with others who shared the same passion and commitment to protect our creatures. Those who had the resources that I lacked, yet who accepted what I offered in my own unique way.
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