“There is within you a lamb and a lion. Spiritual maturity is the ability to let lamb and lion lie down together.”—Henri J.M. Nouwen
“Come! Come! You won’t believe this.” My friend pulled me to the edge of the bluff above Kenya’s Mara river. My breath caught in my throat. On the opposite shore of the river a baby hippo sniffed around a massive 12’ crocodile. Riveted, we feared the worst.
Hippos and crocodiles coexist in the rivers of sub-Saharan Africa. Typically, crocodiles leave hippos alone. Hippos are aggressive and considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Their large tusks and teeth are used to fight off threats, including humans. You do not want to go swimming with hippos.
Plus, hippos are big. They are the third largest African mammal after the elephant and rhinoceros. Their rotund shape is too big for a croc’s bite. However, baby hippos are fair game for a crocodile. Where was the mother hippo? Why was this baby alone on the shore? We were spellbound, caught in a cloud of anxiety as the little hippo curiously checked out the monster crocodile like an innocent toddler.
The crocodile shifted and stretched out full length in the sun, it’s evil smile frozen in place while the hippo explored its entire body. Finally, the Littlest Hippo returned to the head of the crocodile and with a sigh, lay down and snuggled into the beast’s embrace. “No! No! No!” I telepathically messaged the hippo. The hippo paid me no mind and promptly went to sleep.
The crocodile’s menacing teeth dripped from his overbite, a matching row rising up along his lower jaw. Crocodiles have the strongest bite of any animal, capable of 5,000 pounds per square inch! They are lurkers, hunkering down in the muddy water waiting for unsuspecting prey to come to drink or cross the river. Sometimes they haul themselves out along the riverbank often opening their mouths to cool their crenelated bodies under the tropical sun.
The onlookers slowly left the scene as nap time for mammal and reptile unfolded without incident. I remained glued to my spot, hoping for the best, mama’s return, and fearing the worst—Mr. Croc’s attack. After 15 minutes, the pair rearranged themselves like a couple wanting individual space in the bed, mirroring poses of contentment and relaxation.
In the end, with a silent heave ho, Mr. Croc rose and slid from the shore into the water, abandoning the little hippo to wait hopefully for its mother’s return.
The story played out like a living lesson for peaceful relationships. Considering the polarization amongst people today, I believe the Littlest Hippo and Mr. Croc demonstrated peace and safety are possibl