Your ‘family’ doesn’t just consist of you or your nuclear and extended family. It doesn’t refer to an intergenerational household either.

The meaning of the word ‘family’ includes our community and our society. It is made up of many little families all living under one roof. It encompasses a larger group with whom we share similar traits, a common environment and even a sense that we must all get together at some point, especially for special occasions.

You don’t need an invitation to attend such a gathering for the door is always open and cannot close. Wouldn’t you want to be a part of such a community? There’s one particular animal that comes to my mind when I think about families such as the one that I’m describing. The penguin.

Penguins are birds, but they cannot fly. Instead, they are excellent swimmers. They have adapted and evolved to survive in extreme weather conditions, much like the polar bear.

When it’s especially cold, penguins huddle together in large colonies that provide warmth and protect them from predators. These colonies consist of thousands and sometimes even millions of penguins.

Penguins lay their eggs on the icy shore and it is there that they raise their chicks. Penguins remain loyal to their mate for many years and lay only one or two eggs at a time. Parents take turns keeping their eggs warm. When the eggs hatch, father and mother penguin personally feed and protect their chicks. They are not left to fend for themselves.

For a few weeks each year, thousands of chicks will wait for their parents to return from foraging. When their parents return, the chicks respond to the unique audio frequency of their parents’ call. This allows them to reunite, even when the crowd is a big and noisy one.

Soon after the chicks fledge, parents will moult. They will lose all their feathers at once. This process is called catastrophic moult. It happens quickly: over a few weeks. Penguins have no choice but to fast at this time as they unable to hunt without their waterproof feathers.

Penguins truly understand the meaning of teamwork and the importance of working with a group: be it a small group or a bigger community. This requires us to ‘follow the rules’ even when no one is looking. We should not really wait for a leader to guide us.

Instead, we should know what must be done, why it must be done and when it must be done. There is no waiting around for instructions or explanations. This is not the kind of community where one can ‘blame the leader’ when things go haywire.

To be a penguin is to place emphasis on the first impression that you make–no matter how false it turns out to be later on. It is always making sure that you look your best, even if you don’t feel it. This is not done to manage impressions. Rather, we know that it is the first step to order, structure and get on the right path. The first impression is not the end goal.

We are not here to give people an incorrect view of what and who we are. Eventually, people will figure out what lays within. The outer, ultimately, must reflect the inner. This requires us to put our best foot forward whether someone is watching us or not. For the penguin, this is innate and instinctual.

People who walk the path of a penguin are polite are courteous. They are an indicator of persons in the upper echelons of society, specifically those who are diplomats. Though penguins are generally found in the coldest parts of the world, they are resilient. They can adapt to the situations they find themselves in. When you have faith in yourself, you will be able to get through all the challenges in your life.

Penguins, however, cannot survive on their own. They must be with others to live and thrive. It is a reminder that all that we achieve is not only for ourselves and must be shared with those around us as well. If we have had a hard time with our familial bonds, the penguin is here to indicate that we will soon open up to new levels of awareness.

It is an awareness that makes us see that we are part of a big family and we can be happy, indeed.

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