The Little Elephant; Circumstance, In Your Control

little-elephantI once heard The Little Elephant.  The short story was told that one day, a boy and girl went to the circus with their mother and father.  There, they saw a huge elephant tied to a tiny stake with a rope.

“Daddy”, asked the boy, “The Elephant is so big and strong, but the stake is so small and short. He could set himself free just by taking a few steps over. Why doesn’t he just do it?”

The mother and father smiled first at each other.  The father replied, “When the elephant was very small and just a baby, he did try to break away from that stake.  Back then he wasn’t quite strong enough to break free. He tried and tried, until he finally gave up, believing that it was impossible to free himself. Now, he is a larger elephant, but he doesn’t try anymore.  He doesn’t believe it’s possible to break free.”

The moralistic themes of the story could go in many directions and could be used to drive many points, especially to young people.  However, I would like to focus my thinking on one thought that is considerably relevant.  People can be the same as the circus elephant.  Many things happen to us during childhood.  Those things can be common life events or continuing circumstances that we are born and raised into. Often, we try relentlessly, even during our childhood, to change those things.  If a person gives up, for whatever reason, on trying to change circumstances and fix things; they may remain tied to them, as if with ropes to tiny stakes, just like the elephant. Adverse things that we could easily move from, can become things we are willing to stand by.

I concluded a prevention class with teens by reminding them to consider the fact that they are in control of their circumstances.  I explained the value of our community and the people that are responsible for assuring children are safe and well.  It is important that youth all over know that they are in control of changing things that are confusing, uncomfortable, or unsafe in their lives by seeking the help that they need by, first, speaking up.

The circumstances that children are put in vary.  Children are well cared for by parents that are emotionally involved and responsible in nurturing.  Other children are raised by caretakers and busy parents working multiple jobs.   Some children have an incarcerated parent, an addict parent, or a parent emotionally detached from the family.  To imply that children are in control of their circumstances seems erroneous and perhaps insensible.  Consider that perhaps if young people are given appropriate explanation of their worth early in life, and taught how to address a need for any change, they may find that their circumstances are not, ever, out of their control.

When working with teens in our community, I stress that they are to recognize a plan for their life…their blueprint.  We focus on four words in this prevention program; You, Others, Cope, and Live.  The emphasis of the prevention is placed in empowering participants with the understanding that they are first in control of themselves, YOU; this is identifying what they want in life, of themselves, and what they know they should have. Next, I have them reflect on OTHERS; others will have an impact on their lives. We evaluate what happens in relationships with others by interpreting the positives and negatives that can occur between people.  Finally, we discuss how to COPE in numerous dilemmas.  We focus on the various outlets that a person can use to speak out during struggles so that they may LIVE with hope and strength for their future.

The rise and fall of life’s roller coaster can make anyone want to stop trying.  Especially for those that become a victim of any form of abuse.  Perhaps, if early on we believe that we have a priceless tag on us–then we can certainly believe that we should want more for ourselves.  This means never settling for less than the best of love, care, and support of those present in our lives.  Understanding that we can step away to make a change, it’s never too late.  More specifically, one must try not to let tiny stakes remain to become giant posts that cause interferences in their ability to cope and believe in more for their future.

Sheria White, Community Educator


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