Monday, May 23, 2011

'Tis a Gift to Be Simple, A Gift to Be Kind

Phil spending his Saturday morning being there for Archer Binturong
Cynical though I may be, there are still things that give me hope in life. The story behind this photograph is one of them.

The guy in the plastic lawn chair is Phil. Years ago, he became a lifetime adopter at Conservators' Center, chosing to adopt one of the animals there, Archer Binturong. Part of the deal with adoption is that you're given additional time with your animal, to form a personal bond with him or her. You're given (and can bring) treats to feed your animal and, in that way, spend time getting to know them, and they can get to know you.

In his younger days, Archer Binturong used to excitedly climb down to greet Phil whenever Phil could come by for a visit. Sure, tasty treats ensued, but it really did go beyond that. Archer knew he had a friend in Phil, someone for whom Archer was special. It's something all of us want and need on some level, to know that we matter to someone else, that we're important. Obviously Archer was important to Phil.

While not a lot is known about binturongs, it is reported they can live up to 20 years in captivity. Archer is reaching that mark and not surprisingly, Archer has slowed down a lot. Most days, he rarely comes out of his den, preferring to sleep and keep still.

This, however, has not stopped Phil from coming to spend time with his favorite animal. When I was out early Saturday morning helping to feed some of the animals in the Small enclosure side of things, I saw Phil sitting next to Archer's enclosure, reading. It was clear Phil was settled in for the morning. When I asked if I could take his photograph he laughed and said, "Sure," at the same time apologizing for not having Archer down with him.

To me, though, this photograph wasn't about Archer. This photograph was about patience and love and the bond that can develop when people stop and take the time with someone else, be they human or animal, and then agree to a lifetime committment to that other creature. There is something magical, something that goes beyond words and settles into a warm spot, deep in the heart when this happens.

It's a rare gift, but one we all have the capacity to give and to accept.

So, thanks, Phil, for allowing me to witness this. I'll try to remember it when the world turns dark again.

(I heard later in the day that Archer finally woke up and realized that Phil was there. He slowly made his way down to see his friend of many years and spent some time with him before climbing back up to rest again. That, though, was their moment and not one that needed someone with a camera to document.)

-- Tom