During a whale-watching expedition in Alaska, our tour group spotted several sea otters beside our boat. The captain turned off the engine, and we snapped pictures as the otters went about their daily routine, clearly not intimidated by the presence of humans or our big, noisy boat. Some played and swam around in the water, while others floated contentedly on their backs and soaked up the afternoon sun.
Sea otters, our captain told us, thrive in communities, and you rarely see an otter venture out alone. However, the sizes of their communities are in a constant state of ebb and flow, their numbers going up and down, sometimes on a daily basis. Two or more may leave the main pack in search of better food sources, or a smaller group with young seal pups may join a larger one for safety in numbers when orcas are present.
"At night," the captain continued, "all the otters join paws, either in pairs or in a circle, to keep from floating downstream and getting lost."
"Stop the cuteness!" I told my husband. "How precious is that?"
We can all learn a thing or two from sea otters. God designed us to be social creatures. We all need someone - either a spouse, a family member, or close friend - to hold on to in this topsy-turvy roller coaster event we call life. Not just during the sad or scary times, but also when things are going well. We need others to laugh with us, share our joys, and find mutual happiness in the wonderful things God's world has to offer.
If we're fortunate, we have more than one person we link paws with. But having those connections involves a degree of effort and vulnerability on our part. When we reach out to another, either in joy or in sadness, we're saying, "I need you. I want to share this with you."
Usually, the other person responds in kind, and they either laugh with us or offer a shoulder to cry on. But what happens when someone we care about is drowning in disappointment or sorrow and incapable of reaching out?
Often, our first reaction is to rush in and try to fix the problem. But that's their work to do, and not ours. Instead, I've found that the best response is to offer a hand of support and say, "I'm here for you. I've got your back. I won't let you float downstream and get lost in the dark."
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