One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of reading.
I have recently had the pleasure of reading a wonderful book, “A Different Kind of Safari”, with my seven year old daughter. This book is not only very well written, but also a great teaching tool. The book is 32 pages with colorful illustrations on nearly every page. The target age of the reader runs from 9 to 14, but younger and older will enjoy it too.
The book is written by Helen C. Hipp, a counselor and psychotherapist. Helen has evolved her education into a coaching practice called WithinU Life.
This practice is specifically for coaching people with special needs, and their families, to help them maneuver life’s challenges, allowing people to celebrate and embrace what makes them different by society’s standards. I applaud her work and efforts. Her knowledge clearly comes through with this book.
The book begins with a boy in the African Safari, originally from Vermont. He notices a pink hippo and remarks on her different appearance. She really didn’t mind being different and that intrigued him. She told the story of how she attempted to colour her skin grey with mud, just to have the mud wash away. The boy, by the name of Ray, explained that he was also different and quite shy. He lived very uncomfortable in his own skin.
Rosie the hippo, could not see any differences in him to any other human boy she had seen. But his differences weren’t apparent to the naked eye. He felt lonely and sad. Rosie felt the need to help Ray and took him on a life changing journey down the Mara River. Ray climbed on her back and rode down the river to meet a crocodile TLC, Tender Loving Crocodile. Ray was quite frightened of TLC, but much to his surprise TLC was a old nearsighted, smiling, friendly crocodile. Ray, Rosie and TLC continued their journey down the river. TLC told Ray the story of Eli-zee, the zebra.
The story of Eli-zee begins with two groups of horses, a white group and a black group. Eli-zee had no friends since she was different. Whenever she attempted to approach either group of horses, they ran away. Eventually one day she realized that due to her stripes she could camouflage herself in the shadows of the underbrush. She patiently watched the horses without being seen. Finally, one day she spoke to one of the horses that grazed near her.
The horse initially would not speak to her, afraid the other horses would see them talking. Assuring her that she could not be seen, the horse hesitantly spoke to Eli-zee. The horse explained that all the horses were afraid of her since she was different and my bring predators to attack them. Eli-zee now understood. but assured the horse that her stripes were actually a benefit to her, allowing her to blend into the brush. A predator cannot attack what they cannot see. Being different for Eli-zee actually protected her.
Ray now understood that being different wasn’t actually a bad thing, but a benefit to him being a individual. He saw the pink hippo and a wonderful friend, TLC a old loving crocodile, and Eli-zee a brave zebra that celebrated her individuality.
At the end of the story, Ray is awoken by his grandfather; this whole adventure was just a dream. His grandfather explained that safari in Swahili means “long journey,” and that is exactly what Ray had, a long journey to accepting himself for who he is and being happy with himself.
This story is a great tool for people of any age. We are generally so self critical, but we need to become more self accepted, value our differences and excel because of them. Helen C. Hipp has written a book that we should read and share.
I plan to share this book with many other parents. There are a great many kids and adults who feel lonely and think they don’t fit in. Grasp what makes you different, excel with your individuality, be you and love others for their own individuality.