There is a YouTube video that shows a mama bear and her cub trying to make it up a steep snowy mountain. The mama quite easily makes it to the top, but the baby following her almost gets there…and then slips down, down, down. It immediately tries again, only to get close and then slips, down, down, down. This happens once more. Each time, the mama is pacing at the top and you can almost imagine the groans and growls of encouragement she is calling out to her wee one. Finally, on the fourth try, the baby pulls itself to the top. But interestingly, the mama didn’t gush over the little cub for finally making it up. She just turns with the expectation that her tired cub will follow, and leads them into the woods for safety.

As educators, we are always trying to find the magic potion to instill intrinsic motivation, motivation that is driven from within, into our students; that yearning to learn, to become, to grow and challenge themselves just because it is wonderful and has an inner reward…without a carrot hanging in front of their eyes.

On the 29th of this month, my husband, Donnie, and I will celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary. My father officiated our wedding on a blizzardy November day. We will never forget what he told us in the sermonette. He said, “If you depend on the other to make you happy, you will be disappointed, for that is a role only God can fulfill.” Wow!! Powerful words to take into a marriage, but oh how true!

We live in a society that surrounds our thinking that someone can do it for us…no work involved on our part, we deserve it, we “deserve a break today,” or we “shouldn’t have to go through this.” So many messages to give us excuses to live by. So, let me tell you about why I collect giraffes.

Not long after I completed my doctoral research on resiliency, I was given a picture of a little baby giraffe. The woman who gave it to me told me she had received it from missionaries who told her that giraffes are usually born at night so they can get on their feet by morning to run away from predators. It wasn’t many years before I learned that giraffes fall six feet from their mother’s body to the ground at birth. Then I learned that giraffes have the largest heart of any animal so blood can be pumped up their long, 500 lb. neck to their brain. I concluded that we are created to be resilient. It is in our DNA!

Just as the baby bear had the endurance and motivation to get up the mountain to rejoin the safety of its mother, just as curiosity planted by a passionate teacher can blossom into lifelong learning, just as the giraffe is gifted to adapt to surrounding dangers, just as we have the desire to be happy in life filled with uncertain twists and turns, tragedies and joys…we have been given all we need not only to survive, but to thrive. Trust the God who created us. Being resilient was always part of the plan.