Essay: Wooden Elephant

Dec 11, 2017

Some years ago, I traveled to Nepal with seven women and spent some time trekking in the Himalayas.  We also visited a jungle park in the southern part of the country where we rode on elephants, another kind of adventure.

Toward the end of the trip, I began to buy gifts for family, friends and colleagues.  Seeing a small wooden elephant, I thought of my secretary who collected miniature elephants.  Then I bought it for myself, because of the jungle ride.

That little wooden elephant still stands on my bookcase—about two inches high and crudely carved but remarkably accurate and appealing.  Whenever I notice him, however, I do not feel pleasure but regret.  “I should have given him to Margaret,” I think. “I didn’t need this elephant and it would have delighted her so much.”

I can even picture my little elephant joining the large herd of glass and wooden creatures on her desk.  He would have been happier there.  I would have been happier, too.

It is a lesson about selfishness and generosity that I learned the hard way.  And I wonder if there’s any other way to learn?

They say that elephants can remember for a long time.  I hope I remember this.