Last week I visited the manatees at Homosassa Springs. It was pretty cold by Florida standards, so they were huddled together in the constant 72-degree Crystal River. Manatees are some of my favorite creatures. For one thing, they’re mysterious. No matter how many times you see them they’re mesmerizing to watch. But they also have plenty of lessons to teach.
Biologically, they are close relatives of the elephant, but any resemblance would be a bit of a stretch if you ask me. As strange looking as they may be, there’s just something about them that makes you want to reach out and give them a big hug. Their friendly, outgoing nature just sort of lures you in.
As I watched them through my giant smile, I noticed a few things that we could learn from them.
Move slowly. Why are humans always in such a hurry? It’s clear that rushing around doesn’t necessarily mean we get things done any faster. We’re pretty good at wasting time. And that guy that peels out next to you at the light generally ends up right beside you at the next one. Multi-tasking and being “busy” have become our norms, but perhaps the manatees could teach us a thing or two about moseying. Moving slowly and deliberately seems to be their philosophy. It’s a reminder that we should be working smarter, not harder.
Be part of a group. All of us enjoy spending a little quiet time alone, but being social has some benefits too. Knowing we have others to lean on provides a sense of comfort and belonging. We know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and apparently so do manatees. They seem to understand the value of being part of a community. In the winter months, at least, they stay clustered together, mostly just socializing, but occasionally rolling around playfully to entertain each other.
Be friendly. Manatees have been called “gentle giants” for good reason. They epitomize warmheartedness and coexistence. They don’t get too excited if a neighbor happens to bump into or roll over them. They just bob along and go with the flow.
Eat more plants. Manatees are herbivores and only occasionally (perhaps accidentally even) snack on small fish. If delicious plants can support these 1,000+ pound monstrosities, then surely they can support us too.
Be curious. While curiosity does tend to get them in trouble around boat propellers, I admire their curiosity about the world around them. They are a migratory species, traveling and exploring the coastal waterways like gypsies of the sea.
If we would slow down long enough to be part of something bigger than ourselves, then maybe we’d spend more time exploring and appreciating this beautiful world.