From Hurt to Hope

Peace-of-Eden series no. 14

Recently I met two baboons at a rehabilitation center outside Barrydale, at the home of city slickers, turned nature lovers, Pete and Nola Venter. "How did you come to live in Barrydale", I asked? Nola explained that they arrived more than 10 years ago. Pete wanted to visit a homeopathic mentor he admired. It was one of those synchronistic moments, they arrived on Barrydale soil for the first time, climbed out of the car, looked at each other over the bonnet and simultaneously said, "this is where we belong!" So they bought a house, a big plot of ground and Pete set up a Homeopathic Practice. But neither of them had any vision, intentions or goals of looking after baboons! One day a female baboon was shot on neighboring land and her distraught baby was brought to Nola. "I'm a city girl", thought Nola, "I don't know what to do"! Then she listened to her heart: "this poor baby has just lost its mother, give it a hug, hold her..". Well that is what Nola did, followed her heart, and now her and Pete take care of 50 traumatized baboons of all ages and sexes. I met all the baboons, but two have not left my heart and my thoughts for days now - Padama and Njelo.

Padama was dying. Having been shot behind the right ear, she struggled through surgery, but emerged partially blind, Her recovery was remarkable, and she became an important mother figure to a group of youngsters. Then one night she had a stroke, which proved fatal. She could have faced her death with anguish and rage, but as we sat in the straw next to her withering body covered with warm blankets and Nola's gentle touch, the blind eyes showed no malice, she had a dignity and heart-tendering, peaceful acceptance of her fate.

Njelo arrived at the baboon sanctuary a proud, fighting arrogant Alpha male, but with a crushed jaw and a damaged left eye, the result of having been caught in the gripping grimace of a trap. His jaw healed under Pete's doctoring care, but the damage to his eye was irredeemable. (A local vet used all the photo images on his cell phone taking pictures of Pete's dealings with this wild animal because he never used an anaesthetic when treating Njelo, just asked, "please open your jaw" and Njelo did! Njelo had endured some physical traumas, but in his soul he was still a dominant male, until he lost not only his status, but also his other eye in a momentous fight with another male in the 'to be' rehabilitated troop. He is now completely blind. Like Padama, his attitude towards his new life situation astounded me. He chose not to rage and bemoan his plight, instead he chose to be a source of healing and paternal care to a young epileptic baboon who adores and trusts him!

Recently I read some verses in the Bible, an inspirational book about life, I peter4:vs.1&2: 'Therefore since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same purpose because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin". I have pondered these verses, and not really understood them. Maybe, when we suffer in some way we reach a crisis, a turning point, where we can react with angry injustice and feelings of betrayal or we can understand our limitations, peacefully accept that which we cannot change, and choose - like Christ, like Ghandi, like Mandela, like Padama, like Njelo…to offer love and reconciliatory healing instead. I do not put God, man and animals on a par, but in some bigger ways and some smaller ways each dealt with their suffering in a way that transformed their own lives and transformed the lives of those they touched.