Peeking over the fence, I watched a creature experiencing pure bliss. Gentle waves surrounded him. The sunshine beamed down, warming the brisk morning. And a few of his otter friends were on the nearby shore, wrestling around. What more could an otter want? Heck, what more could a human being want?
Luckily I was the driver for two exchange students, so rather than jump the fence, I was a good human and kept walking toward the lion den (where I definitely would not be jumping anything).
Using my nerd vision of that morning, I realize that that otter (let’s call him Winston) had what he needed according to Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.
When I used to teach Learning Theory, Maslow was one of the “old White guys” that we talked about a lot. His theory was that humans have levels of need, and if you don’t have one level, you cannot achieve the next one. For example, if a student has not eaten all weekend and stayed up all night playing Fortnite, they can’t make good choices about their safety, cannot share love with others, and will not be able to do creative tasks. Or to try a different level, if man does not feel like he belongs, then he cannot achieve his full potential.
Back to Winston…This little otter at the zoo had food provided every day, an ice tray for hot days, and room to sleep or play. The fence around the area protected the group from humans, plus they had caves in the rock for even more privacy. While Winston was drifting in the water, two others wrestled near the shore, clearly having fun as they would take breaks and then go again. I don’t know for certain that Winston could feel good about himself, but I can’t imagine a sad otter taking such a good picture.
Us humans need those levels Maslow wrote about, though they might look a little different depending on the person. For me, I know I belong somewhere when someone notices I’m missing. And I feel I have purpose when talking with a student and witnessing that light bulb moment.
Your wants and needs may be very different, but I think that this old White guy Maslow had it right that we have foundational needs that build toward higher achievements.
So that token of a cup of coffee or a warm hug just might help another person in their journey to amazingness.