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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Savior(s) Among Us

By now, everyone knows about the Mother and calf whales that found their way to the Sacramento River, 70 miles from where they're supposed to be. It was Mother's Day, May 13, 2007 when the Coast Guard first received report of whale sightings just off the town of Rio Vista. By Tuesday, they have moved far upstream, several miles south of West Sacramento. The whales' dramatic turn north caused federal wildlife officials to intensify their rescue operations.

After chasing the whereabouts of the whales, my brother and I finally saw them today at the Port of Sacramento. Cops patroled the area and although wildlife experts are worried that the crowds could distress the animals, they would not stop anyone from coming for a look.

Even if we didn't exactly know the way, the number of cars and people gathered on the levees made it easy for us to find the location. Cops dutifully ushered cars that came in and out of the makeshift parking lot. My brother and I excitedly found a vacant "space" to park the van and trudged up the dirt road, leaving a cloud of dust behind us. After about a quarter mile hike, we claimed our spots.

We must have waited about five minutes before we got our first glimpse of the whale. We weren't sure if it was the mom or the calf, since my son's binoculars didn't allow a much closer look but thanks to our camera's zoom capability, we were able to get decent shots from where we stood.

The whales surfaced every few minutes much to the spectators' delight. Young and old, men and women, people of all race and nationality gathered to see the whales. It was afterall, a once (maybe twice) in a lifetime opportunity to see whales practically in your backyard. After watching the whales for about an hour, we decided to leave. On our way back, there were still a big number of people that were just arriving to watch the whales.

Now that we have seen the whales, our wish is for the rescue team to lead the whales safely back into the Pacific Ocean before the mother and calf gets too distressed and weak.

As I'm typing this story, I couldn't help but think why these whales have lost their way. It's not the first time that a whale has been stranded in the Sacramento River. In 1985, Humphry the humpback whale also visited Sacramento and it took the rescuers 27 days to lead him back to the ocean by use of whale sounds.

In my post "Just Follow The Signs" (to read, click this link)
I stated that seemingly innocent occurrences may actually be signs or messages from God. They happen to teach us a lesson. So what lesson can we learn from these whales?

I learned that there are a number of reasons why whales get lost or stranded. Most cetaceans use their own form of sonar and are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field – they use both of these to navigate and find their food. Several things can affect these otherwise amazing skills:

Navigation error – whales and dolphins sometimes get lost as they use the Earth’s magnetic fields to navigate the seas. There are a number of things (that we don’t yet fully understand) that may cause the animals to become confused, causing them to mis-read these magnetic lines and become lost.

Noise pollution – anthropogenic (human-made) noise from drilling, dredging, shipping, offshore developments and seismic surveys can cause disorientation and distress.

Naval sonar – the effects of sound waves from submarines used by the military (for detecting other submarines, ships etc) can disorientate whales and dolphins.

Some species of cetaceans are very social animals and travel in family groups following a dominant leader. Tragically, if the group leader is sick and swims into shallow water, all the others may follow and become stranded together.

Since the whales' appearance on Sunday, rescuers have been watching their progress and now the rescue operations are intensified. What message can we learn from these whales? It's quite simple, actually. We are reminded that no matter how big or small a creature is, there comes a time when it needs to be rescued. In this case, even one of the biggest mammals need rescuing when they lose their way.

Similar to human beings, we often lose our way and in our desperate moments, we call out to be rescued from our problems, bad habits or addictions. We call to someone to pull us out of the quicksand that we let ourselves get trapped into. We call out for a savior. That savior maybe your mom, your dad, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor, a mentor, a spiritual advisor, or God (whoever you believe that to be, Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, or Yahweh).

There are times when we also assume the role of a savior especially with our loved ones and friends. Devoting a few minutes of our time to listen to a distressed family member or friend is all it takes sometimes. They just need to know that they are very much worth our time. You never know that even a few minutes can save a life. That is why there are a number of Crisis Prevention Helpline or Save A Life Helplines where people unselfishly volunteer their time. Why? Because they care and they know that they are able to make a difference and their contributions can save lives.

So the next time you are asked for a few minutes, don't hesitate to drop whatever you are doing and take a moment to sincerely listen! God gave us two ears so we'll listen twice as much as we speak. There are times when words are not necessary as long as our presence is felt.

To many, the whales are just another spectacle, but to me, they are a reminder of God's greatness and that sometimes His message can be delivered in the form of a sign or a dream or in this case, a mother and calf pair. If our hearts are open to His messages, our conversations with God will never cease.

To Delta and Dawn -- Godspeed!

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