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Not A Crock 

Lessons learned from Steve Irwin's death

Right after learning of the crocodile hunter's death, I thought to myself, he somehow deserved the fate befallen him, knowing his penchant for chasing some of the world's most deadly creatures. I often said that the crocodile hunter was stupid and was inevitably going to die, but after a couple of days pondering the mixed reactions to his demise, I can put on my Freudian goggles and see the crocodile hunter in us all.

Yes, he took risks, but so do many of us every day, either speeding on our way to work, smoking that cigarette, or, even more so, drinking and driving after a night at the bar. Do any of us really deserve to be hurt, disabled or killed for our risk-taking?

In many ways, we punish the croc hunter for the fullness with which he sought to live his life. He took the fight club route in life, dismissing the naysayers and those who prided the safe route. Our ridicule of Steve Irwin may have more root in the way he lived, not the way he died.

As crazy as the guy was, you can't help but see the amount of love he had for education and what he was able to do for the world. He was one of the few people who found a way to do every day what he truly loved doing, which was teaching, especially the young, that all creatures on earth have the right to live as they were intended, that a wild creature's life should only be taken for food, and then only when necessary to sustain human life. His passion was so much so that his risk of death was never a distraction from the lesson he believed he was teaching.

He personified a noble concept many people value in life: commitment to his passion and helping others see and learn about his passion in hopes of making a difference. I don't attempt to paint Steve Irwin as a great social activist, but the lessons he has taught have helped shape the way we think about animals and the way we think about wildlife. Before him, we never saw such hand-on passion for animals and for young people who grew up watching Animal Planet. They gained a newfound respect for the many animals in our midst. We all live with goals and dreams and too often we let either fear of some danger or fear of the unknown keep us from reaching out to grab our dreams. Crazy-ass Steve Irwin was born wanting to do what he died doing, and that is a story even television can't make up.

Decker Ngongang, a native of Charlotte, is a financial professional and committed citizen.

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