Sunday, May 2, 2010

Finding a Hero



The world is in desperate need of a hero. Someone for us to look up to and feel awed by their strength of character and decent intentions. While we wait, my daughter found one in Thailand.

Lek (Sangduen Chailert) came from an impoverished family in the remote mountains of Northern Thailand. The granddaughter of a tribal Shaman, she managed to obtain a university degree, something  uncommon for someone from her part of the world. In the 1990's she obtained her greatest wish - to have an elephant reserve for those that had outlived their usefulness in logging or trekking. Many of the elephants were badly treated and living out their lives in her reserve gives them the first kindness they have every known. One elephant had been blinded by her mahout for nothing more than grieving after her baby had rolled off a cliff and could not be saved. When she entered the reserve, no one knew what to expect. Elephants are socially complex. But as soon as she entered, another elephant came running toward her and immediately welcomed her into the herd. They are inseparable to this day.

Elephant Nature Park in Chaing Mai, Thailand has had many awards and accolades from National Geographic, Smithsonian, Humane Society, Time Magazine, and many more. But what is so amazing about the woman is her relationship with the animals. Lek treks many miles over very difficult terrain to treat sick elephants, often entering into complex and expensive negotiations to buy the animals for her reserve, which now totals 30. She uses money from the family business, and her educational program, which includes hands-on care, to fund the reserve and tree planting. Her desire is to maintain the forests and often uses sacred saffron cloths to tie around the trees in order to save them.

My daughter says she sings the baby elephants to sleep at night. They literally lay down and go to sleep! The adult elephants, when they see her, come running and wrap her in their trunks. My daughter said she didn't even feel she could talk to her, she was in such awe of the woman. She said she could feel her incredible energy. Of course Lek is humble and kind, probably totally unconscious of her affect on a young woman from an entirely different place in the world.

The world is full of these heroes. We forget how many are really out there, working to make things better for all sentient beings.

So, for today, I sing the praises of a woman a world away. Bless you, Lek. May all of our blessings and well-wishes come rushing your way, aiding you in your endeavors. They do not go unnoticed.

What about you - do you have a favorite unsung hero?

38 comments:

Brian Miller said...

what a cool story...she sings them to sllepp...that is amazing...

Lydia said...

She sounds as close to perfect as a human being can be. As of today she is my unsung hero also. Thank you so much for this post. I needed the kinds of lift only a story such as this can give.

lakeviewer said...

I didn't know about Lek. I shall learn more about her cool project.
For me, those folks who volunteer in shelters, in prisons, tutoring and assisting those in need, they are my unsung heroes.

Jingle said...

awesome talking, indeed, the world is full of heroes...you are one of them!

Lori ann said...

Thank you for telling us about Lek Nancy, she is a beautiful person, many many blessings to her. I believe also heros are everywhere.
xx lori

DJan said...

that is a wonderful story. I love elephants, they are so kind and intelligent, and to have a heroine like Lek is so awesome. Thank you for letting me know about her, it does make me feel better just knowing about her.

d page said...

What a beautiful story.A woman with such compassion and wisdom. I truly admire her. This story made me cry.
Thank you telling us about her.

Natalie said...

What a beautiful story, Nancy. I dreamt about an elephant sanctuary the other night. :) Bless her.♥

Von said...

Lek would have to be my favourite hero right now, what a wonderful story.Anyone who helps others through injustice and abuse has my vote.How lucky your daughter is to have met her and see her work, life changing.

linda said...

what an amazing woman...thank you for spreading the word about her and her project......perhaps there is a way to make donations to her, however small? this is a wonderful story, i would love to share with my grandkids...i think they would understand what she is doing and perhaps want to help her in their small ways...with so much heart.

xoxo
as always♥to you

CrazyCris said...

beautiful!

willow said...

Beautiful story of a beautiful woman.

Hilary said...

A wonderful story, Nancy. Lek sounds amazing. I would pay to see her sing those elephants to sleep.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

What a fantastic story. YOur daughter sings elephants to sleep. What memories she will bring home from this trip!

Land of shimp said...

Lek truly accomplished much, did she not? I've always suspected that elephants might actually be better than people, but then I don't understand the elephant gossip ;-)

What a wonderful, admirable human being. She makes me believe that we are all capable of great things.

I don't really have any one hero, Nancy. It seems a rare day that I don't bump into someone, they do something admirable, or kind, and I end up admiring that.

I think the reason we are in such need of heroes is that we demand too much, in too many areas from them. More than we do of ourselves.

Someone can have a failing, and yet still be a hero. I guess it just depends upon the context in which we see them. JFK springs to mind on that. There were elements about that man that were heroic, and entirely admirable. However, as a husband he was no great shakes, and that's putting it mildly.

So is he not a hero because he cheated on his wife prolifically, or is more of a hero because managed to accomplish much that was admirable without having a perfect character?

I honestly don't know, but I suspect it's the latter, not the former. Still, glad I wasn't married to the man. Heh, maybe that's the answer. To many, many people he was legitimately a hero, but to his wife? Rather hurtful.

Jo said...

We have so much to learn from the animals, and people like Lek are here to teach us. So, she's a hero not only to the animals, but to us too.

I think one of my heroes would have to be Jane Goodall. She spoke here in Vancouver once, and she is amazing.

Marlene said...

Now she is a true hero.. an angel
among us.. to be there and devote her life to something good and giving..My definition of a Hero is someone who despite the pain of seeing and walking towards these examples of abuse ..do so.... I can barely see the commercials of abuse on tv now..I give money but the pain of actually being there would be too overwhelming..A hero faces it and ignores her pain..they are giving and compassionate ..this story really touched me.

Nancy said...

Brian - My daughter said it was the most amazing thing.

Lydia - We sure need it right now, don't we?

lakeviewer - There are so many, and we usually never hear about them.

Jingle - How sweet. Thank you!

Lori - They are all around us. Maybe we need to focus more on them.

DJan - My daughter just loved her.

d page - I am in awe of her, and all the others that do what they can to make the world a better place.

Natalie - You did? A good dream, I hope.

Von - It really was life-changing. Jill has always been very sensitive, but meeting someone making a difference was incredibly uplifting for her.

linda - You can adopt an elephant for a year for only $75. Maybe your grandchildren would like to have their very own! Just click on the link to the park and then "How You Can Help." Thanks...

Chris - She is just that.

Willow - She's certainly an inspiration.

Hilary - You can bet that if I ever make it to Thailand, I will do the same!

Trish & Rob - Lek sings the baby elephants to sleep, and she also is dearly loved by adults. I guess you never touch their trunks, but they wrap them around Lek when she comes near them.

Shimp - I know exactly what you're saying. There is good and bad in everyone, and our heros are only human.

Jo - Jane Goodall is very high on my list of heroes. What an amazing woman!

Marlene - I feel exactly the same way. I literally cannot read abuse stories. Heroes walk toward the horror and do what they can. Wow.

Eternally Distracted said...

Lek certainly does sound amazing. i think Mec and I went to the same place in Chaing Mai last year but I can't be sure - I didn't see Lek though :0(

Amy said...

I'm still trying to get back in the swing of things after my 4th trip to Portland this year - reading this post moved me tremendously. Elephants are such "wise" creatures; your daughter was fortunate to have witnessed such compassion and strength. A hero, I believe, has to put the other's need above his/her own. Very few have the capacity to act in that way all the time, hence, being human, as Alane pointed out.

Let's hear it for all the moms out there, who, on a daily basis, put their little (or big) ones first!

Great post Nancy - great to be back!

Whitney Lee said...

This is so touching; thank you.

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

Oh Nancy, my eyes are watering! I just imagined this woman sitting in a small area on hay with a book and a lantern singing to toddler elephants. :)
That is so incredible and I wish I could experience and elephant's love.

JC said...

Someone should write a book about her or at least an article ... so, she can donate her profits to her sanctuary...

Jayne Martin said...

I loved when CNN did their heroes special. You got to meet so many incredible "ordinary" people doing such extraordinary things. What a wonderful woman. Thank you for sharing her story.

slommler said...

What a beautiful story! I could just see the elephants wrapping her up with their trunks! I could feel it and it was awesome! Thanks for sharing her with me.
Congrats on your POTW!!
I have always loved elephants!
Hugs
SueAnn

järnebrand said...

Wow, imagine that... Singing to the baby elephants... What a beautiful picture. Wonderful story, thank you so much for sharing. Hugs/ Jo.

Cricket said...

An amazing story and a deserving potw. Congratulations.

When I was perhaps fifteen, I had an English teacher who asked us about our heroes. We made our answers, mostly various celebrities, I think I may have said John Lennon, I forget. He seemed disappointed.

We asked him who he would have said. He said his father... perhaps also his grandfather. I didn't understand that then.

I understand now.

Dianne said...

I posted a story a long time ago about an abused elephant and an abused dog who became best friends at a sanctuary in the southern US. I think of them all the time and check on them at the website

Elephants are exceptional beings and Lek is a wonderful person in so many many ways!!

How wonderful that you told her story, you are my unsung hero of the day

congrats on POTW

Denise said...

Hi, I just came over from Hilary's blog. Just wanted to say how moving I found this post. So many unsung heroes in this world and she is definitely one of them.

GYPSYWOMAN said...

my heroes are not difficult to find - they are not from another country - or another state or city even - their names will not make the news media and their stories will live on only in the hearts of those who know them - they have not fought wars or been recognized for acts of bravery as is commonly done of heroes - but they are each a hero in their own way - they are my children - their acts of love and selflessness would fill a book - their work ethic is an example to us all - their humanity deserves the nobel prize - the list goes on - but most importantly, for me, is that they have found the real value of life each in their own way - oh, yeah, and that they continue to love their mother as they do!!! ;)

blunoz said...

That's awesome. Thanks for sharing this story and congrats on Post of the Week!

Land of shimp said...

Hey Nancy, I stopped back by to say congratulations on the post of the week mention over at Hilary's blog :-) I think it's quite fitting!

Moannie said...

Me too. We all need heroes and so many are unsung. Thank you.

Daryl said...

Congrats on the POTW mention from Hilary

deb said...

congrats on the POTW.

and this was such a heartwarming story.
I think I would be like your daughter, so in awe .

elephants are the best, such grace .

Pat said...

I was so moved by this story. Thanks for sharing it with us. Lek seems like such a remarkable woman. She is, indeed, a hero.

Life with Kaishon said...

This post was so beautiful. I agree. I love that there are people like this in the world. People that make the world a better place. Lovely.

ladyfi said...

An inspiring story - the world is indeed full of unsung heroes!