Thursday, November 3, 2016

Lessons on Perspective From an Elephant

by Danetta Kellar

One afternoon an elephant tromped through my backyard. 

I was inside my mud hut, deep in the bush of East Africa, making my morning tea when I heard the ruckus. Villagers were shouting, feet pounding past my house. Children were crying and women ululated around the water pump. 

I ran outside to see what was happening in our usually quiet compound. There, taking his sweet time, was an enormous bull elephant, weaving his way through the tall savanna grass. Trailing after him was a noisy group of shirtless tribesmen, armed with rudimentary wooden bows and arrows. As they drew nearer to him, they took aim. The arrows reminded me of toothpicks as they bounced off the elephant’s tough skin and fell to the dusty ground. He did not seem to be bothered one bit.

I searched the crowds for my best friend. There she was, her baby girl tied securely to her back. 

“Where’s your son?” I asked her.

“Oh, he’s not going to school today. He is hiding under the bed.”

I let the seriousness with which my neighbors were taking this event sink in, and then I said, “Um…it’s just an elephant who has gotten lost from his herd. He won’t hurt anything. Don’t worry!”

Eyes big with a look of “my friend doesn’t have any common sense at all”, Fatuma explained to me, “Chizi, that elephant will trample all our crops. We will have no food. We will die. He must be stopped.”

I looked down at the ants busily working in the dust at my feet. My face reddened with embarrassment for what I had failed to consider. The ants just kept crawling around, oblivious to my distress. For weeks I had been trying to find poison to get rid of them. They weren't really harming anything. 

But this elephant, this animal I was frankly thrilled to actually see up close in the wild of my own African backyard, this creature of my childhood story books and cuddly stuffed toys, had the power to change my friend Fatuma’s life. To destroy her family’s livelihood as sustenance farmers.

My perspective changed that bright morning standing on the ridge.

Some things in life are elephants, and some are ants. 

Elephants are life changers. When they come barreling into our lives, things are never the same.

Other things are ants. They are annoying, they distract us, they might even bite. But they don’t really change our lives. 

It helps to know the difference.

In our family, when a member gets distressed and the emotions start to rise, we assess the situation from the perspective of the elephant and the ant. Is this an elephant? Or is it an ant? 

Will this change my life, or can I live with it?

Since we lost a dear one recently, many things I used to treat as elephants suddenly shrank and became apparent for what they truly are. Little harmless ants working in the dust of my life. Not life-changers. 

Perspective changes everything.

How do you measure your perspective? Share your advice with other readers!



  1. Excellent analogy. Powerful message.

    Cocooned as we are in our First World sensibilities, we fail to see how a broken down car, a missed appointment, a pregnancy, or an injury can imperil the livelihood or even the very existence of a family teetering on the edge.

    1. Thank you, Samuel, for your comment. It is so true. We are very insulated in our culture. May God help us walk in others' shoes and change our perspective. Blessings to you today.

  2. What a brilliant way to look at life and discern that which is a real problem that must be addressed and that which is merely a minor inconvenience. Most things are minor. Thanks for these words.

    1. You are very welcome, Judy. Thank you for reading and encouraging. We all need to keep growing in discernment and perspective. I am still on that journey. Blessings!