The internet is a strange place, but sometimes it has the most beautiful little spaces. One of my favorite genres of internet stories is when one species of animal cares for another species of animal. It’s honestly the cutest thing imaginable. This week I just wanted to be a little bright spot and share some stories of nature being cute.
In December 2004, a 650-pound baby hippo named Owen was stranded after a tsunami. Villagers in Kenya worked tirelessly to rescue him. Then, to everyone's amazement, the orphan hippo and an elderly tortoise named Mzee adopted each other. Now they are inseparable, swimming, eating, and playing together. The story of this couple is so famous that several books and a website have been dedicated to it.
A black macaque monkey named Niv lives in an Israeli zoo. This monkey was very lonely among its own species and started taking care of a chicken that lived in a neighboring cage. The bird knows that it can run to Niv if it is feeling scared or seeking shelter. Niv will hold and cuddle the bird. Sometimes, the bird even stays overnight.
This one starts a little dark. The lioness Kamunyak (’blessed one’) was on a hunt and killed a mother oryx. The mother left behind a cub. Kamunyak decided to adopt that calf and has since taken in 5 other oryx calves. The lioness couldn’t breastfeed the weak calves, so she took them to humans for help. She let the humans feed the babies but only under her guidance. In Kenya, she is famous taking in these calves, and fighting off anyone (even other lions) who would threaten her charges.
These stories are so cute and heartwarming. Two different animals from two walks of life, coming together and taking care of each other. We recently had a situation where we could have taken in and cared for someone we didn’t know. A newborn girl needed a home for 6 months while the mother recovered. My mom encouraged me and told me that “our family has a lot of love to give”. We responded too slowly to the call and another family was able to welcome that child and take her in. Thank the Lord that someone did, but during the hours after the initial call for help, there was unfortunately hesitation on our end.
I’ll admit it. I had a lot of questions. I desperately wanted to give this girl all of my love, but I didn’t know her. I didn’t know the circumstances of her family. I wasn’t fully aware of how the organization worked. I wasn’t willing to open my home when I didn’t have all of the answers. This seems perfectly reasonable, and yet…
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ (Matthew 25:37-39)
All of us know the parable above where God implores us to take in all those who need it. He doesn’t say that we should do those things if it’s convenient. He calls us to love with all of our hearts and to do it unconditionally. We must be willing to love every person that we interact with without hesitation. This free gift is the kind of love that we are called to.
This coming weekend we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Each of us have heard the story of how there was no room for Him at the inn. At Christmas we celebrate His birth and welcome Him into this world and into our lives. If His story were happening now, though, would we welcome Him? Would we give Him all our love, or would we be like the innkeeper who turned Him away?
There are still a few days left until Christmas, and I hope that you’ll spend these last few days really examining your heart. How do you love? Do you save it only for those who are close to you, for those you really like? Do you love the stranger and give him everything you have? This weekend we will celebrate the coming of our God as a child in a manger, welcoming Him to this world, but are we thinking of how His image is already all around us in every one of His children? If you get a chance in the future, give more, help more, do more, love more. This is the true meaning of Christmas.