The Power of a Penguin
This afternoon, I'll drive to the Gulf Coast to spend two days working out of Camp Biloxi, the Lutheran Episcopal Disaster Response tent city in Biloxi, Mississippi. It's an advanced trip to find out what King of Peace can be doing to live into its commitment to assist the Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi as it rebuilds its church and community. I call it an advanced trip, but many others have already gone ahead of us. There is a web page with some of their stories at Camp Coast Care, a ministry of the Lutheran Episcopal Disaster Response which has served 182,000 people.
One story was The Power of a Penguin which told of a nurse giving a boy a plush toy from the movie Madagascar. She wrote,
As the end of my stay at the coast approached, a young mother with her eight-year-old son came into the tent. Most of the patients we saw were depressed, but this little boy appeared to be more depressed than the others. His eyes looked so sad. I gave him two toy cars—I thought he might be a little too old for a stuffed toy—and he absentmindedly rolled the wheels as he waited for his mother to be seen by a physician. When they started to leave, I left my triage station and approached the boy’s mother. She told me they had lost everything and were living in a FEMA trailer, but her son did have a few toys. When I asked if her son would think he was too old to have a plush toy, she said that he had a “sleepy toy” when he was younger and asked him if he would like to have another. Looking a little sheepish, he nodded “yes.” That’s when I told him that I had a Madagascar. He perked up and exclaimed, “You have a Madagascar?” I replied that I had one Madagascar who was waiting just for him if he wanted it. He nodded excitedly, and I took the penguin out of the plastic bag, placing it into his outstretched arms. He clutched the toy against his chest with both arms and walked out of the tent with a sparkle in his eyes. His mother followed him with tears streaming down her cheeks as several volunteers and I turned our heads away and wiped our own tears.I'm driving to Mississippi because I have found that when you stay at home and say you care, it is hard to convince someone—no matter how eloquent your words. But when you drive 8 hours and show up, you don't actually have to say anything at all. Being there speaks volumes.
It took so little to change a child’s life for a little while. I hope that someday Madagascar can be found at the bottom of a toy chest full of toys, forgotten and no longer needed. But for one day after “the storm”—and perhaps a little longer—a five-dollar penguin made a difference. Never underestimate the power of a penguin, the power of love.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church