Magical Mobula Rays and the Values of Volunteering

Thud.. thud.. thud…

an unfamiliar sound is outside of our window at 5 am. Is it a cat trying to get into a food bin? Or a big cover flapping on a construction site?

Acoustics are weird. I take my morning coffee outside and realize the sound is coming from the direction of the ocean and I wonder, could it really be them?

It is them! Thousands of Mobula Rays are gathering in the Sea of Cortez. They love jumping out of the water and as their wide body crashes back into their element with a joyful belly flap the sound travels beyond the ocean, beyond the beach, right into our home.

I go down to the beach and see them happily jumping around in the bay during sunrise. They spend most of their day in deeper waters and return in the afternoon offering us a close up sunset show that makes me giggle and leaves me in wonder. Some of them are acrobats and like to do double backflips.

Experiencing wildlife is awesome.


As I am sitting on the beach, typing these words onto my travel keyboard a white heron walks along the shore and it is the first time I see it pick fish. A few minutes after sunrise the scenery changes. The Mobula Rays are swimming further out and with the sun now rising strongly over the ocean I only see a few shimmering splashes in the distance. On the beach the dogs are coming out and doing their rounds. Sniffing the rocks, looking for leftovers and enjoying a morning run. Time for me to head home and prepare breakfast for our kids.

This day already feels complete. Filled with wonder and gratitude.

But there are lots more of animal interactions on the agenda. It is Friday and our family volunteers at the local dog shelter. What is our responsibility? Please cuddle with the Puppies! For real.

There 25 puppies in the shelter between 3-10 months who want cuddles and need to experience what it's like to be around kids and furniture. 

We bring them into the casita in 7 shifts and spend the next 3 hours playing, cuddling, teaching them boundaries and cleaning up between each group. It is fun, and really exhausting.


Volunteering used to be a big part of my life and social justice activism. Some of my more formal experiences of volunteering that had a great impact on my life include counseling women on a domestic violence hotline and supporting people incarcerated in jail in California. 

When I became a mom, my resources and focus shifted. Now that the kids are older, I am seeking out ways to volunteer again and share this experience with them. 

While cuddling puppies may seem worlds apart from counseling domestic violence survivors or supporting incarcerated individuals, I'm reminded that volunteering – giving your time and energy to causes bigger than yourself – plants seeds of empathy, compassion and service in all of us. 

As I watch my children giggling while the puppies clamber over them, I'm imparting some of those same values I held dear during my more activist days. I am teaching them to take responsibility and put in work and energy into something they care about that goes beyond the single interaction. And who knows? Maybe these puppy cuddle sessions will inspire future social activism when they're older. Or perhaps they'll find their own unique ways to give back, volunteering their skills and time.

What about you? Where do you volunteer? How have you involved your family or friends in volunteering, whether locally or during travels? Do you know of ways to volunteer online?

I would love to hear about your experiences!

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