It was the “wave that eats people.”

And devour them it did.

Or, at least, over 200,000 men, women and children were swallowed up by the devastating tsunami in December of 2004.

However, where that tsunami hit with the greatest ferocity, there was one group of people who suffered no casualties at all. The sea gypsies of the Andaman Sea, the Moken, recognized the signs and they acted quickly.

The Moken live and die on the seas off the coast of Thailand and Myanmar. Nothing much hinders their lifestyle of movement from island to island. They are nomads, up to six months a year is lived out on their boats.

No particular island is their home; they are at home wherever the fishing is best.

It was an amateur photographer who caught a Moken on the beach crying and then running for high ground long before the ocean kicked up the first killer wave of the tsunami.

What had that woman seen that sent her running? And why did the other 181 of her tribe agree with her seeming bout with hysteria?

For generations, the elders had taught about the wild ways of the seas. The tribe’s chief Sarmao Kathalay says, “The elders told us that if the water recedes fast it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared.”

The waves swiftly and powerfully assaulted the shoreline that morning and drained just as quickly leaving stranded fish flopping on the shore.

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However, the people, instead of greedily running down to the beaches and filling their baskets with the readily available fish, fled to high ground. In fact, that is what other people did. And they lost their lives.

It was wisdom, the sagacity of those who have experienced life, that saved them. Well, it wasn’t simply wisdom accepted as truth that protected them; it was wisdom heeded that saved their lives.

Not one person from this tribe of gypsies lost their lives in a tsunami that claimed thousands. Not because they had lived through dozens of tsunamis before, but because they listened to the counsel of their elders. They had been taught of this phenomenon during the seasons of calm, when such devastation seemed improbable.

However, when the early signs began to present themselves, the Moken people didn’t stand around and debate the pros and cons of what the elders had taught them. They ran.

I wonder how many of our troubles, debilitating and devastating, would be avoided if we sought the wisdom of those who have gone before us?

Maybe it’s pride. But we aren’t dumb because we don’t have all the answers or know exactly how to respond to certain situations. We just haven’t had the life experience yet. Dumb is when we don’t seek out people who have lived life and can teach us to see the warning signs of a personal tsunami.

In Proverbs, often referred to as the book of wisdom, it is written:

“Hold on to wisdom, and it will take care of you. Love it, and it will keep you safe. Wisdom is the most important thing; so get wisdom. If it costs everything you have, get understanding. Treasure wisdom, and it will make you great; hold on to it, and it will bring you honor.” Proverbs 4:6-8 NCV

One great tsunami could be brewing. Seek wisdom, honor wisdom and obey wisdom. More than likely you will survive.

Larry and Linda Kloster sponsor this column.


Community News Editor

Sally Ann Shurmur arrived at the Star-Tribune to cover sports two weeks after graduating from the University of Wyoming and now serves as community news editor. She was raised in Laramie and is a passionate fan of Cowboys football, food and family.

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