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?