anne_mikolay_120Despite Thanksgiving's rapid approach, it's been a rough month for a lot of people. The news broadcasts a stream of bad events: the Penn State scandal, sleeping babies snatched from their cribs, Wall Street protesters disrupting New York in a futile effort to drive home a point (what was it again?) that nobody takes seriously anymore. Closer to home, I haven't been my physical best lately, and my heart is deeply saddened as a dear friend's husband loses his battle with cancer. How, then, in my present downcast frame of mind, do I pen an uplifting Thanksgiving column? I wondered and considered skipping this week's column altogether until I heard a simple story that put everything into perspective.

In the course of everyday conversation, my father told me about his friend, who received a call from her grand-daughter's school nurse stating that the five year old had taken ill. When the grandmother arrived at the school to retrieve the girl, the child was sitting on the edge of a cot, wretching over a bucket. Instead of complaining about the pains in her stomach or becoming sick in school, the child merely looked at her grandma and asked, “Grandma, do penguins have ears?” 

Excellent question, though not for the reason you might think.

The little girl was obviously having a bad day, but unlike the rest of us who mumble and grumble and often wish we could run from hardship, the child didn't whine or complain. With perfect, innocent resilience, she focused on something better... contemplated, marveled, wondered...instinctively shifted gears and uplifted herself. We should all be like her!

For the record, the answer to the little one's question is yes. While at first glance it seems that penguins are without ears, they are, in fact, not. Penguins' ears, feather covered, flap-less holes, are strategically located on the sides of their heads and lend the penguins the stream-lined shape that enables them to glide effortlessly through water. Their anatomy would be easier for us to understand if God had given them obvious, exterior ear flaps, but all things work according to His design. God perfectly provided for the penguins' needs.

As He will provide for ours.

This week, when I gather with family to give thanks, I will count this simple anecdote among my blessings, for this innocent, little girl reminded me to trust in God's design, to marvel, to wonder. If you, like me, feel less than festive this season for personal reasons, may I suggest you follow the example of a child and ponder the ears of a penguin.