Howard Thurman could identify with life in its numerous manifestations. A favorite interest of his was in the companionship of Emperor penguins. The tale he most delighted in telling was about the emperor penguin and its species’ mutual sharing of responsibility, by both male and female, in the birth and nurturing process. Howard, with eyes sparkling and voice filled with admiration, would tell how the process occurs on the ice of the Antarctic at temperatures sometimes falling 75 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. “No other species of penguin can withstand such bitter cold,” he would exclaim. He would continue, “with no nest, save the icy shelf, the eggs are laid on the bird’s fleshy feet, protected from the frigid cold by the warm skins of their bellies.” With a hint of masculine pride, Howard would say, “The roles of Mr. and Mrs. Emperor Penguin are alternately reversed. Taking his turn, Mr. Penguin stays at home on the ice where his large, thickly featured wings spread protective warmth over the eggs during incubation. Meanwhile, Mrs. Penguin is off taking her turn at gathering food for their mutual survival. Little wonder,” he would conclude, “that the emperors lose fewer of their chicks than do other penguins.”
Howard found a suggestive metaphor in his tale. The dream of unity finding protection, when the storms of life were raging, in his faith that “underneath are the everlasting arms” exemplified by the egg protected from the bitter cold, surrounded by the mother and father. The egg came to be significant to him as a symbol of any person’s dream. It must be sheltered and kept close to the heart during all the cold, dark experiences of life until it is hatched. Howard’s telling and retelling of the penguin story brought renewed meaning deep within his being.