The Power of One
I had planned on writing this post about my recent stay at The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. What I did. What I ate. Where I slept. Blah, blah, blah. It was going to be very informative. After rereading it, however, I realized something. This was not the post I wanted to publish. Yes, the food was plentiful and great, served buffet style on tables that seemed to extend as far as the forest. Our hut, with a back porch overlooking the elephant park and a front porch with a resident kitten, I’d take any day over a five star resort. I could tell you aboubt the nightly hour long foot massages for a whopping $3 that cannot be recreated at any east coast nail salon. Or I could introduce you to our guide, Tea, who spent hours relaying stories about each elephant and also managed to shimmy up onto our back porch and into our window when our resident kitten somehow locked us out. But this is not what I want to write about. What I do want to write about is what I learned from The Elephant Nature Park (and I don’t mean elephant hygiene). What I learned was the power of one. One person. In this case one very small person. Her name is Lek, and in Thailand she is known as the elephant whisperer.
Never underestimate the power of one passionate person
Sangduen “Lek” Chailert was born in a remote mountain village in Northern Thailand. Her grandfather was the local healer, not just for the villagers but also for any animal in the area. Going on calls with her grandfather, Lek learned from a very young age the power of healing and the powerful bond that can exist between humans and animals. At the age of 16, while visiting a logging camp, she witnessed first hand the abuse these animals received. It then became her mission to make the Elephant Nature Park. A place where elephants would feel safe and loved and where the world could be educated on how ALL animals should be respected and not exploited.
In 1996 Lek’s dream became a reality and the 250 acre Elephant Nature Park was opened as a sanctuary for abused elephants from all over Thailand. Today, over 80 elephants call the park their home as well as hundreds of dogs, cats and water buffalo.
That is the power of one. One person with a mission and the courage to carry out that mission despite their own vulnerabilities and fears. And if you are attempting to bring about change it will take courage. Having the courage to be vulnerable enough to admit one’s weaknesses. This does not make a person weak. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. To quote Brene Brown, “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Amen, Brene, Amen.
I have been asked by more than a few people lately why I am so open with my sobriety and the personal struggle I had with alcohol (chardonnay to be exact). Especially given the fact that not many knew of this struggle. On the outside it looked like I had my act together. And I pretty much did, except for this one thing. This one thing that began growing like a weed in my brain and, like a weed, wouldn’t die. Slowly, over a period of years, my off switch just stopped working. Complete abstinence is the only answer for me. Moderation is not an option. It took me a long time to come to this realization. Partly because our society dictates that there are only two options; you can either drink or you are an alcoholic (insert picture of homeless bum). In reality, there is an entire “gray area” that lies beyond normal social drinking but falls short of the homeless bum image.
Why am I so open. This is why. To shed light on this issue and break the shame and stigma associated with acknowledging that alcohol has become a problem in your life. Shame can only work when you are alone. If we cultivate an environment of acceptance then shame has no place to grow. That weed dies. Don’t fall for the lie that one person cannot make a difference. Lek is proof of that. Your actions count. Find your mission. Be passionate and vulnerable and courageous. The world needs more Leks.
You change the world by being yourself
Originally published at arunatatime.com on April 4, 2018.