The Little Red Penguin is a motivational short story that teaches the principle of inverting a problem into a solution. Concerned that his unusual red coloured plumage is attracting the seals unwelcome attention, the Little Red Penguin succumbs to fear and fails to live to his potential.
In life this may be a handicap, negative experience or a uniqueness that can be viewed as a problem. Inverting any problem though, as Jesus (the man on the iceberg) encouraged the penguins in this story do always presents us with an opportunity and often a solution. Thus the colour red which previously drew unwelcome attention of an enemy is converted into a warning to the enemy and thus achieves the desired objective. In God’s economy, EVERYTHING can work together for good, but only if (and this is the condition) we are “in Christ Jesus”. Accepting then reframing the scars of life’s knocks as an opportunity are the first things that faith in Christ brings to the suffering. Living in a heathen society, is not a handicap – it is a mission-field. Helen Keller found that being born without hearing or sight was not a handicap – it was an opportunity to sense, smell and develop her understanding, appreciation and faith far beyond those of her able-bodied brethren. The Little Red Penguin too found that inverting the perception of red in his enemies minds from their opportunity into a warning of danger, is the same lesson that Jesus taught us – like the seals did after they learned their lesson, the demons simply fled from His presence.
“I don’t swim in the sea,” the Little Red Penguin explained to the man who sat beside him on the iceberg. The seals see me straight away and go for me first before all the others. I think it’s’ because I’m red and all the others are black and white!
The man nodded and concurred. “That makes sense,” he agreed.
But then he asked a question that stumped the Little Red Penguin.
“Do you WANT to go in the sea?” he asked the little fella, kinda casually.
Nobody had ever asked the Little Red Penguin that question before. He’d never really thought about it now that he came to thinking of his answer.
Of course penguins always want to go into the sea. It’s what they are built for – swimming in the the sea! That’s where they catch their fish and play.
Sure, there are the seals that chase them and it can be dangerous but they’ve always been there and most of the time the penguins can spot them in plenty of time and escape. It’s just that when you’re red, you’re a target and it’s really dangerous.
“If it could be made safe somehow, perhaps it would be fun to swim in the sea!” he answered eventually, thinking aloud.
“But how could that ever be?” he turned to his friend and asked. “The seals chase me the moment I jump into the water!”
It was strange talking to a man like this. No penguin had ever done that before, but the Little Red Penguin wasn’t scared in the slightest. He’d escaped the seals every time he’d been swimming so nothing phased him.
“Perhaps you could turn the tables on the seals and teach them what a fearless Little Red Penguin could do? I mean penguins are smart aren’t they?”
The man had a point. If he could find a way to use his red colour as a warning, or something else that scared the seals, then perhaps he could enjoy swimming again.
He called a meeting with the others and they schemed as only penguins can do. They all got excited to think about this one. Everybody loved the Little Red Penguin and wanted to help him, so they listened hard as he spoke.
“Brothers and sisters, you know that we penguins are born to swim in the sea. It’s our life! It’s who we are! You know that the seals go for me when I go swimming because they can see me before all of you. What we need to do is to turn our problem upside down and turn it into a solution!”
The penguins wondered how the Little Red Penguin was going to do that but they liked the idea and gave him the time to speak.
“What we have to do is teach the seals that when they see me, then there is big trouble ahead for them. Then when they see me flash red all through the sea, then they will run away from us all in fear.”
The penguins laughed at the thought of the Little Red Penguin causing the seals to panic and swim away. They joked among themselves about how the big fat seals were too slow to catch them most of the time, and how they even tried to get up on the ice shelf to get them, but they all slithered away easily from them when they got on the ice!
“If we all work together then we can do this!” the Little Red Penguin said. “Come close and look at this idea.”
The Red Penguin reached down and started to scratch a drawing in the ice. The others all stretched to see the plans unfold. They nodded and understood. Then they developed a secret communication system, and planned a BIG surprise for the seals. For over a week they scratched, pecked and set up a trap with a HUGE ice overhang that they undermined ready for a fall.
The trap was set and they set a lookout for when the seals arrived. When they came, they all took their places. Half the penguins dived into the sea and the others sat atop the over hanging ice cliff. Sure enough the seals circled the penguins as usual. Then on cue, the little Red Penguin dived into the middle of them all and started playing. He danced and swam around in circles and made a huge fuss in the water. The seals had never seen anything like it before and eagerly eyed him up for breakfast. Then, on the secret command all the penguins suddenly jumped right of the water and left the little Red Penguin alone doing his dance!
The seals were stunned! Normally the Red Penguin would take off the moment they chased him but not this time, it was almost like he was baiting them, and all the other penguins had run away together. Where were they and why did they all disappear so suddenly? Something was different about today, but they wanted the Red Penguin nonetheless. So they all turned and chased him, just like they always used to.
Up, down and around the Little Red Penguin led them on a merry chase . . . faster faster he went furiously swimming and dancing and playing just out of their reach and then UP onto the ice shelf he popped, and stood there looking down into the water laughing at the seals. This made the seals so angry that they too jumped out of the water and slithered their way towards the dancing Little Red Penguin. They struggled to get close but he just slipped to one side each time and chuckled. By now the entire seal colony was on the ice and after the Little Red Penguin.
Then, slowly at first there was a cracking sound from the ice cliff, and it all happened so suddenly that the seals had no chance to escape . . . down the ice rumbled, into the seals and then into the sea. An enormous cloud of ice, snow and seals all mixed up together crashed into the sea. The penguins had done it – the ice cliff had scored a direct hit and the seals were all bruised and bundled back into the sea. Dozens of black and white birds laughed their heads off as a very embarrassed and bruised pack of seals limped their way off and out of sight. At the front watching it all with glee was a little spot of Red feathers doing a dance and laughing just as much as all the others!
The Little Red Penguin turned and looked over at the edge of the iceberg. Sure enough, there was his friend, laughing too and giving him the thumbs up. With a secret wink as if to say, “Thank you for the advice!” the Little Red Penguin turned back and carried on the dancing and celebration.
It truly was one happy day today!
It took them a week or more to get over their injuries and wounded pride but eventually the seals returned looking to pick off an unsuspecting penguin for breakfast. They were cautious at first, but started to circle the penguins as they did before. Watching from the ice shelf, the little Red Penguin waited until the seals were getting closer and then dived right into the middle of the commotion.
In unison, all the other penguins jumped right out of the water and left him dancing all alone in front of the seals.
“Don’t do it!” the head seal shouted at the others, “Don’t do it . . . it’s another trap!” and they slunk away into the distance.
The seals had learned their lesson for they knew now that red means danger!
Every now and then the penguins dropped a cliff of ice into the sea, just when the seals were getting cocky, to remind them of the day that they got tricked. The Little Red Penguin now had the seas all to himself, and his colleagues loved him, for all they had to do was to call on him whenever the seals came close and he’d just dance, laugh and play enough to scare them all away!