The story continues, as it will every Sunday until we reach the end…
Emily sighed a long and deep sigh and said to her mate, Emmett, “It looks like we’ll never get to have children. Everyone else in the colony thinks there is something wrong with us, and they look down on us.” Tears flowed from her eyes, turning to ice at the end of her beak. Emmett put a wing on her shoulder, saying nothing. He didn’t know what to say. It was true. They were becoming too old to have any children. They were penguins, Emperor penguins.
They lived in a colony of proud Emperor penguins in Antarctica, on the great peninsula that juts north toward South America. In their colony it was very important to remain proud and to pass on the proud tradition to the children. After all, they were Emperors.
For Emily and Emmett, most of their pride had been taken away by the years of waiting and the many times they’d heard their friends whisper as they passed. The sadness they now felt wasn’t from what others thought or said, but because they had no children.
Emily looked up and cried softly, “Oh, help. I know if we had a child, we would raise him to be a special penguin.”
Emily and Emmett stood gazing at the children playing at the center of the colony. Normally they enjoyed watching them play because they loved children, but today it saddened them all the more. All the children looked so much alike. Certainly each had his or her own looks and personality, but they seemed to learn to be so much alike. They had to waddle the same way and talk the same way. If anyone accidentally said something that was considered unfit for an Emperor to say, he was soon made to feel like one of the “lower” breeds of penguins.
Emily and Emmett decided to take a walk away from the others. Emmett, who had been deep in thought for a long time, broke the silence, “We’ve been shown an important thing, my dear. If we had had a child before now, he would have grown up like all the other children, and like us—proud and selfish. But if we were to have one now, we would teach him love and humility; but perhaps now it’s too late.”
They spent a long time surrounded by the white, icy landscape, talking together and calling out to their Creator for help and wisdom.
As they were returning to their place in the colony, they were met by two strange creatures. Drawing near, they realized they were penguins, but not Emperors, and they weren’t Adelies or Gentoos, the neighboring species of penguins in Antarctica. These two were kind of stumpy looking, not even half as tall as they were, and they had yellow feathers sticking out above their beady red eyes.
They looked tired with a certain sadness in their eyes, but they straightened up as the Emperors approached. Emily and Emmett said a polite “Hello” as they were passing, and would have continued on if one of the little penguins hadn’t said, “Excuse me, I believe you are the Emperor penguins we’ve been directed to visit. Are you Emmett and Emily?”
Emily answered a little nervously, “Yes, but wh…who are you?”
“My name is Cliffider, a Rockhopper from the Falkland Islands, and this is my good mate, Cliffidee. Not many days ago we were told to come here to meet you, and if you will have us, to stay with you for a while.”
“If the Creator has led you here, you are certainly welcome,” answered Emmett. “Come along with us to our place in the colony, and tell us about it.”
As Emmett and Emily waddled back toward home, the Rockhoppers hopped along beside them, telling them about their visit with Cliffking and his prophecies about the coming battle with the caracaras. “And as we were calling for help in the days that followed, finally we each received an answer,” said Cliffider. “We were to come here to find you.”
“But why?” asked Emily.
Cliffidee answered, “I’m going to be laying an egg any day now, and this little penguin is to be raised with the Emperors, while we return to our home to prepare for the war. We are to leave this egg in your care. We know there couldn’t be a better set of parents for our child.”
The Emperors were stunned into silence. Thoughts and emotions waged war in their minds, joy over their answered prayer, but sadness for their new friends. They wondered what the other Emperors would think, having an egg in the summer when Emperors always have theirs in the dark of winter. In the end came the calm assurance that this was the answer they had been waiting for. They would finally be able to have an egg and then a baby penguin.
When the time came for the laying of the egg, Cliffidee put it on the feet of Emily to keep it warm, and she whispered to the egg, “Goodbye, little one, and always remember your Maker, and come see us if he so leads.”
Knowing they must now return home, the Rockhoppers thanked the Emperors for receiving them and for taking their egg. Cliffider finished with these words, “I’m sure you realize that your new baby will be different from the rest of the children in your colony. Some will laugh at him. Some won’t understand him. You have been chosen because you will be able to keep loving him no matter what anyone else says. At home we’ll be having a war. He may have his own here, but it won’t kill him, and with your help it will strengthen him. To him you will be his mom and dad, yet someday he may decide to find where he came from. He may be called to help in our battle. We leave that to the great one who made us all. May he be with you in all you do.”
So Cliffidee and Cliffider said goodbye and headed north to their home. Perhaps I don’t need to mention how many times they looked back toward the feet of Emily.