Updated: Nov 7, 2020
"Chew on This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder", a book of inspirational short stories by Gary Brock and Kelly Tuck, and is available for purchase here!
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
The trip to the zoo had been a great way to spend a sunny spring Saturday. All of the exhibits featured a myriad of impressive animals and were well worth the dull ache spreading slowly through my feet and legs. Even though I was growing tired of walking, my feet and my daughter’s persistent hand tugging were taking us to the final exhibit, the grand finale, “The Big Cats!”
During our entire tour, we had seemingly traveled within the same group, two families with children and a few couples, weaving in and around one another to catch a glimpse of the animals in their “natural” habitats. There was, however, one middle-age gentleman who had spent the entire trek around the zoo grounds with his cell phone glued to his ear, giving someone a very lengthy telephonic tour of the zoo. Although he wasn’t too loud with his comments, it was blatantly obvious by the groups’ body language that everyone was weary of his unsolicited commentary.
At the entrance of the “Big Cats” exhibit was a sign which listed all of the different cats we would see and explained how the exhibits were arranged in a circular fashion allowing guests to easily move from one exhibit to the next.
“Ready, Sweetie?” I leaned over to whisper into my daughter’s ear.
“Yes!” she breathed in anticipation.
“We’re going to see all of the big cats, one right after the other! Let’s try to find what makes each of them special.” Her little face turned to meet mine. She was all smiles.
The first exhibit was the tigers, striking with their bold colors and stripes. They were as muscular as they were magnificent. Their stealthy strides through the encased jungle was the perfect combination of strength and poise. Soon, a somewhat bored voice broke through the awe as if conducting an invisible guided tour.
“Tiger...just a big cat.”
Continuing the tour, we came upon the most beautiful black creature we had ever seen — the panther. Its sleek coat was shining in breath taking splendor, magnifying its startling white teeth and pink tongue in bold, striking color. Lean muscles bulged slightly as he paced back and forth.
“A panther — just another big cat,” came the voice again.
As we continued, a thunderous battle cry filled the air. ROAR! My daughter squeezed my hand in a mixture of excitement and hesitation. The exclamation was as deafening as it was bone chilling as we strode through the pampas’ enclosure to view the lion pride. What a glorious mane on the lion who the zoo had named Leo. Its large golden head exuded a sense of royalty as it gleamed in the sun. Surveying his sheer size, it was easy to understand why many dubbed the lion “King of the Jungle.”
“Yeah, a lion, but, you know, a big cat,” we heard from the back.
As we rounded the bend, my daughter squealed, “Look at those spots!” She pointed at the large leopard napping on a large tree branch, which overlooked her domain.
“She must’ve had a long night,” someone mentioned. The leopard continued to sleep soundly, rhythmically flicking her long tail, as we made our way through the exhibit.
“Just another big cat. A leopard. At least the others were doing something. This one’s just sleeping,” the voice said.
As we continued our trek through “The Big Cat” exhibit, we heard the same comment without fail. Jaguar — a big cat. Cougar — a big cat. Puma — a big cat. Cheetah — a big cat. All of these amazing creatures had been narrowed down to “just a big cat” in the eyes of our unwelcomed tour guide.
* * * * * * *
A murmuring began in “The Big Cat” exhibit area after the final member of the group had vanished from sight. Did you all hear that one human?” the tiger growled loudly for all his fellow big cats to hear. “He kept saying we are all alike, “just a big cat.” He must not see clearly. I have stripes and none of you do...and my stripes are beautiful.”
“I know what you mean,” the leopard yawned, lifting her head from her strong paws. “I think my spots are cool, and they don’t look anything like your stripes.”
“You know, my black coat is stunning,” the panther exclaimed. “None of you have my color, and, quite frankly, I don’t want stripes or spots. I like my color.”
From the back of the exhibit, Leo the lion roared, “And all of you know you wish you had my fantastic hairdo!”
The jaguar, cougar, puma, and cheetah all chimed in agreement that their individuality was what made each of them special. The big cats agreed that humans must not be nearly as intelligent as animals since – animals appreciated and understood their differences.
* * * * * * *
As our tired feet drew us to the zoo exit, finally separating us from “the great commentator,” my daughter was quiet. She had been so excited to see “The Big Cat” exhibit, it was strange for her to be deep in thought now. I was pretty sure I knew what was on her mind.
Finally, she glanced up at me. “Dad, why did that man keep saying they were just big cats? Didn’t he see their stripes, their spots, their different colors, their mane, their tails, their whiskers, and their sizes? How could the person he was talking to even know which cat he was talking about? He didn’t describe what they looked like. If they had never seen any of them before, they wouldn’t know what any of them looked like because they’re all so different! I mean, yes, they are alike because they’re all big cats, but they’re also very different.”
I thought for a moment before taking a deep breath. “Sweetie, this seems to be a problem we’re having in our world today. People think if we point out our obvious differences that we are discriminating. They think if we describe someone’s distinct characteristics that they are being profiled. They don’t seem to understand that the human mind understands through contrast and differences.”
Speaking with wisdom well beyond her age, my daughter replied, “But everybody is different — everybody is an original. That doesn’t make sense because...
* * * * * * *
If we eliminate the differences,
we eliminate the very thing that makes
each of us unique and special.
* * * * * * *
*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!