April 8

Separated from the Herd

April 8, 2011


While watching a documentary about American bison, I saw an adult female separated from the herd and killed by a pack of wolves. Although this isolated her calf—less than a year old but already more than three hundred pounds—the herd accepted and protected the smaller animal.

One day as the herd crossed a frozen stretch of river, the calf fell into the cold water and struggled mightily to climb out onto the bank. But ice on the surface of the water and mud on the shore were serious obstacles, and the calf only barely succeeded in clambering out of the water. He could barely stand, but after a brief rest he stumbled over to join the herd.
But the calf was covered with mud, so he'd lost his customary smell and appearance, and the adult bison began to push and kick him out of the herd. Many calves have been killed by their own herds in just this way. But the calf stood away from the herd, and with his movements and the heat of the rising sun, the mud dried and fell away. With the return of his usual smell and appearance, the herd accepted him again, and all was well.

All of us are members of a great herd, but if one of us alters our appearance or smell even slightly—with an expression of pain, a moment of anger, or even a difference in culture, intelligence, or skin color—the rest of the herd tends to separate the "offender." In our fear, we may even kick him to death, right when he needs us the most—as the young calf needed his herd.

We really are brothers and sisters—it's not just a metaphor—and we need to include everyone in the herd. We need to accept, nurture, support, and love each other. As we do this, we benefit individually, and the entire herd becomes stronger.

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