When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. This ancient proverb means that the weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful. Proverbs and parables help us learn how to solve problems by following the truth and placing ourselves in the equation.
We, adult humans, are the elephants—in conflict between the powerful. Our children are the grass.
When leaders fight, it is their followers who suffer. There are those without any power that follow leaders not by choice but to live and survive. And their lives and future hang in the balance of the outcome of the leaders’ fight.
We are the leaders. Our children are the followers.
When the large fight, it is the small who suffer most. What happens to a people when the fight becomes the norm and the large suffer and the small suffer the most?
We are the large. Our children are the small. And they are suffering the most.
Nature of the elephant
The proverb’s focus is the uncharacteristic nature of the elephant that, if acted out, will produce devastating results. Its peaceful nature tempers the elephant’s size and strength. Elephants avoid violence at all costs. To protect what they value most, their herd (community) and young (legacy), they will walk miles out of their way to avoid predators and harm. Not because they can’t fight but because fighting is too costly. Elephants rarely fight and can live their entire life span of 70-plus years without a physical confrontation.
For the elephant, a fight means death, and she considers if it is worth dying for or killing.
Women taking action
Almost 30 years ago, one woman active in Women of the ELCA urged her congregation–Bethel Lutheran Church on the west side of Chicago–to support children facing violence.
Two years later, the Metro Chicago Synodical Women’s Organization brought a memorial to the Third Triennial Convention (1996) of Women of the ELCA. They wanted to broaden awareness of the violence children face and consider actions to address it.
The convention passed the memorial, resolving “That ELCA women encourage their congregations to recognize the first Sunday in May each year as Rachel’s Day, based on Jeremiah 31:15–17 wherein Rachel grieved for her children, to mourn the loss of our children and to renounce the forces of evil and fear that plague our nation.”
Will our next steps cause more suffering for the grass? We as women of faith have spent much of these last three decades looking at the fight rather than the cost of fighting. Some have decided that our right to bear arms is to be protected, and that makes the fight deadly to our children.
The above proverb and what we know about elephants can help us reclaim what we value most and put fighting and violence in their place. Each elephant in a herd (community) is a provider and protector for every calf. Women of the ELCA is that elephant, that leader, and we can begin to heal the grass this Rachel’s Day, May 2.
Begin your planning by:
- Remembering how Rachel’s Day started. What was happening in your community in 1994, 1996? How has your unit observed Rachel’s Day over these last 30 years?
- Downloading “Rachel’s Day” Women bolding standing for children.” Read and research “the fight” in your area. Discern how “the grass” is suffering because of the fight.
- Studying Rachel’s actions that are more than crying and mourning. What did she do and say that changed the actions of the leaders?
- Making and wearing light blue ribbon pins and teach others about why your grass is suffering and how we must provide and protect it at all cost.
- Including the litany in worship on May 2. Pay close attention to the responses—we refuse to be consoled, we refuse to be defeated, we pray for hope, we act for peace, we work for justice, and do it!
- Reintroducing a Rachel’s Day resolution at your synodical women’s organization convention. Add resolves that expand supporting children facing violence to how we will take responsibility for the violence they face and how we will take the lead for eliminating it and their suffering.
And give God of Peace thanks for reclaiming our bold community, children, a new proverb, and elephants. Amen.
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship for Women of the ELCA. Download our free resource, “Rachel’s Day: Women boldly standing for children” in English or Spanish.