Mainewhile: Don't walk like a penguin; act like one

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

There’s a video from BBC Earth making the rounds on social media. Have you seen it? It’s all about penguins.

In the clip, a group of emperor penguin chicks are waddling adorably along the snow and ice when danger strikes. A giant petrel is hunting, and penguin chicks are on the menu. There’s a close call and a struggle, and things come to a tense standoff. Until a new player appears.

An adult male Adelie penguin, described in the video as “the feistiest penguin in the world,” arrives on the scene. This little penguin quickly moves in to protect the chicks. Visually, the situation is amusing. The baby penguins tower above their new protector. The Adelie’s head barely comes up to the neck of the babies behind him. Nevertheless, his presence changes the dynamic immediately. The petrel flies off and the Adelie escorts the chicks to the sea.

The video just warms my heart. OK, I am totally guilty of anthropomorphizing the heck out of this situation. I admit there is undoubtedly far more to this than what was captured in the video, and I freely admit to ascribing my own human emotions and perspectives to the Adelie’s behavior. In my defense, it is easy to do. I mean, these chicks aren’t his family, they aren’t even the same species. What moves the Adelie to interject and save them?

In the same vein, and thanks again to social media, I have recently read stories of toddlers being kept warm by bears, an amputee veteran stopping to help a broken-down motorist who happened to be Colin Powell, first responders going above and beyond to save draft horses fallen through ice, a former refugee who feeds the homeless for free out of his upscale restaurant, police officers sledding with kids, a goose keeping an abandoned puppy warm – the stories go on and on. Several tissues worth.

I was most moved, however, by an incident closer to home.

This past week at school, I was walking through the halls when I spied two kiddos off to the side. In our school, students walking from one room to the next are supposed to stay in line, single file, so as not to clog the hallways. These two were clearly out of line. I moved closer. What had seemed like potential mischief was revealed in fact as one student stooping to tie the loose shoelace of the other. The look of concern and caring on the face of the one securing the knot was breathtaking.

I realize that an out of context clip of penguins and two kids in a hallway are not exactly the same thing. However, these two events seem to stem from the same source – or at least they stir the same emotional chord in me. Stepping up through compassion, be it in a life-or-death situation, or through a small act of kindness, brings beauty and joy to the world. It matters.

In a world filled with violence and struggle, with fear and insecurity, be an Adelie. Step up in whatever moment presents itself to you. You need not be on the front lines of a global struggle to make a difference. In your own space, in your own moment, bring your whole self and offer kindness.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

0