Synchronicity and Kemp's Ridley Turtles

April 2012. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

Okay, so this is a strange title but they definitely are connected (in my life) so read on. Those who have spent time learning a bit of Jungian psychology know the concept of synchronicity. Its simplest definition is a meaningful coincidence.

I wrote this post in the Houston, Texas area while visiting with a long-time friend who owns and runs a private school for ages 3 through 9. She’s an ENFJ and is constantly encouraging her students and her teachers to grow and develop; her curriculum is incredibly creative and students are well loved by the teachers — they form strong bonds with one another. I was there to do a type session encouraging even more teamwork among her teachers so that they could improve their collaboration and better educate their students.

The school’s primary grade students have an annual fundraiser. The second and third graders (about 20 in all) have a project in which they pick an endangered animal, research it with their families, and write a report on their findings. Each presents the report and their classmates vote on the one they want to be the subject of their fundraising – Kemp's Ridley Turtles “won” this year. These turtles also have a close geographic connection to them: Padre Island, Texas is being reintroduced as a nesting site. There is only one other site in the world (Rancho Nuevo, Mexico) where these turtles return to lay their eggs.

The teachers include these turtles in their lessons. For example, each grade draws pictures of the turtles using different art techniques. Elements of the pictures are put together and a t-shirt is designed for the “fun run” fundraiser event.

Now here’s the synchronicity. Decades ago, marine biologists were mystified as to where the Ridley Turtles had their nesting site, but no one could find it to even begin protecting it. My uncle, Henry Hildebrand (INTP) was part of the hunt and actually was the first scientist to document their nesting site in Mexico.

(As an aside, you can probably see that it is difficult to be part of my family and my friendship group and escape the MBTI® inventory! My adult children have requested that I hold off asking anyone they date to take it right after I meet them!!)

Uncle Henry was a remarkable man and a dedicated marine biologist. He gathered data on turtle sightings in part through talking with locals in both Texas and Mexico (he spoke fluent Spanish, although apparently with a heavy Texas accent). He spoke with anyone who might have information, including fishermen, fish processing company owners, villagers and scientists. He had an incredibly wide circle of people who spoke at his funeral service – all of whom admired his independence and his ability to talk to each person as an equal. He learned something from everyone, and was able to put together theories of the turtles’ migration patterns and their potential nesting sites. And he finally found the sites at Rancho Nuevo along the Gulf of Mexico.*

So how is it that this friend of nearly 50 years who has run this school for 25 years and whom I had never visited until March 2012 was having a school focus on Ridley Turtles that my late Uncle Henry had been intimately involved with in his career? That’s synchronicity!

Talking with the children who had just gotten back from a turtle rescue lab in Galveston was a treat. Showing them pictures of my uncle and the Mexican nesting grounds of the turtles he had discovered was wonderful. Hearing their excitement about turtles and the things they learned was even better.

I’ve come away with a greater appreciation for both my uncle and for how good teaching happens. Some would say, “What a small world.” Synchronicity happens!! 

*Read more about this in The Great Ridley Rescue by Pamela Phillips, Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1989.