It seems like all eyes are on April these days. You know April—the incredibly pregnant giraffe who gets the least private birthing room possible. For days, people have been tuning into the webcast, hoping their timing is such that they’ll be able to watch April birth the world’s newest giraffe.
I haven’t watched any of the footage, mostly because, BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. I watched a giraffe being born decades ago and I feel like I’m just sort of “good” in that department now.
The year was 1990-ish. I was about six years old and bursting with curiosity and daydreams. It was a sunny summer day when my parents and two other couples—all good friends—loaded up their combined 8 children and wild amounts of courage for a day at the zoo. It was, to my knowledge, the first and final time we did a group zoo trip.
The moment when everything went awry seems to be seared into my memory. I remember walking with the group but, being who I am, I couldn’t just walk on the boring, flat sidewalk alongside them. I was to the side, walking the stone ledge between the sidewalk and the garden like a balance beam. I could see the group and the group could see me.
Until my daydreams got the best of me. I was looking down at my feet, concentrating on staying on the “beam” so I could get a perfect score in the Olympic competition that my daydreams had thrust me into. When I looked up, imaginary gold medal around my neck, the group was gone.
They must have turned this way, I figured, as I made a confident left turn.
No familiar faces met me.
Okay, well obviously it was a right turn.
I quickly changed course but, by this time, my six-year-old sense of direction was hindering any progress beyond disorientation. I was lost.
I remember their faces so well today, it’s as if I just saw them yesterday. They were a young couple pushing a stroller. They noticed me, scared and alone, and approached me with kind smiles, asking if I needed help.
Being the rule-follower that I was, I remained intent on not talking to strangers. It soon became apparent to my rescuers that I was, in fact, lost, so they took me to the nearest information desk so I could be found. At the office, the zoo employees tried to ask what my name is, but previous lessons in Stranger Danger kept me silent. They dubbed me “Jennifer” because it was the early 90’s and that was actually a pretty safe guess back then.
This was in the days before we had a phone, let alone the internet, in our pocket, so the wait for my parents to find where I had been dropped off felt significant. They couldn’t just call a number and see if a blonde girl was in the Lost & Found. I was scared and the employees could see that. (They were probably a bit freaked out by the mute child left in their possession, too.) So they did what they knew to do during the waiting period—they figured out what resources they had available to distract me from the fear I was steeping in.
LUCKY FOR THEM, the zoo was having its own April moment. The pregnant giraffe was not only giving birth that day, she was giving birth WHILE I WAS WAITING FOR MY FAMILY TO FIND ME.
So the employees took me into a room where they sat with me/Jennifer, and together we watched the birth of a baby giraffe. Today, all I really remember from the event is that legs were flailing everywhere, though I’m sure there was more to it than that. (Anyone who witnesses April give birth can fill me in on the details that have grown cloudy for me.) It was messy and miraculous, as most of the best things are.
By the time the giraffe had been born, my parents had located the exact information desk, out of an insane number of information desks, where I was waiting.* My mom swooped me up into her arms, our tears dripping onto one another, as I tried to figure out where to begin in telling her the things my young eyes had seen during my solo adventure.
Being so lost for so long was traumatizing. In the days after our zoo trip, my mom bought a leash that would connect us at the wrists, and I insisted we wear it IN THE HOUSE. My separation anxiety was valid and deep, and I think my mom’s probably was, too.
Today, whenever I see a giraffe (or a zoo, for that matter), I think of the miracles inside of the miracles.
For me, the miracle was in being found. However, the world did not simply go stagnant while I waited for my parents to locate me. The miracle of BIRTH was just one of the wild wonders unfolding while I was in a holding pattern.
What are you waiting for these days? Maybe you’re lost, waiting to be found. Maybe you’re waiting for a spouse, a job, a baby. The ache of waiting is painful and terrifying. We often do not get to choose when or how our waiting ends; it is a vulnerable and humbling place to be.
But miracles are happening—even in waiting rooms. We just need to have eyes to see the goodness that is unfolding while we wait (and wait, and wait). Sometimes we may need total strangers who don’t even know our real name to redirect our gaze so we can see a miracle while we’re waiting for a miracle.
Some miracles might be big and flashy, some tiny and faint—we must try not to miss them. If we keep our heads down until that one miracle we’re waiting for happens, think of all the messy and magnificent miracles we will miss! The world does not stop spinning while we wait, and God does not stop being God. If you take notice of what’s happening around you while you wait, you just might find that the waiting room can be a pretty miraculous place to be.
Even today, while you’re staring at your computer screen waiting for April to give birth, look away every so often to catch the miracles unfolding behind your back.
They’re there. We just have to notice them.
*Only grace for my sweet parents who endured such fear and regret while trying to find me that day at the zoo. It was a nutty day at a large Chicago-area zoo, and these things happen. My mom still talks about how frightening it was for them. Only grace.