Two penguins who recently lost their partners seem to comfort one another in an iconic photo

Forgive me as I wax rhapsodic about penguins, but this truly is just the sweetest thing.

Photographer Tobias Baumgaertner has captured hearts around the world with his photo of two fairy penguins, one with its flipper around the other, as they appear to stare at the lights of Melbourne, Australia across the water. At first glance, one might assume that Baumgaertner just got lucky, snapping the photo just as one penguin was stretching or something, but videos he shared on Instagram show how genuinely touching the moment really was.

According to BBC News, St Kilda Pier in Melbourne is home to a colony of around 1,400 fairy penguins, the world's smallest penguin species, and the population is monitored by volunteers. One of them approached Baumgaertner as he was shooting and told him that the white penguin was an elderly lady who had lost her partner and the younger male to the left had also.


"Since then they meet regularly comforting each other and standing together for hours watching the dancing lights of the nearby city," Baumgaertner wrote on Instagram. "I spend 3 full nights with this penguin colony until I was able to get this picture. Between not being able or allowed to use any lights and the tiny penguins continuously moving, rubbing their flippers on each other's backs and cleaning one another, it was really hard to get a shot but i got lucky during one beautiful moment."

"The way that these two lovebirds were caring for one another stood out from the entire colony," he wrote in another Instagram post. "While all the other penguins were sleeping or running around, those two seemed to just stand there and enjoy every second they had together, holding each other in their flippers and talking about penguin stuff."

The photo, which was actually taken in 2019, recently won the Community Choice award in Oceanographic magazine's Ocean Photograph Awards.

Baumgaertner also shared a video of the penguins, showing how close they were. However, he also shared a caveat about anthropomorphizing animals too much.

"I am a dreamer," he wrote. "I believe that it is important to have dreams as they make life worth living and give love meaning. I previously shared these penguin images to spread love because that, I believed, is what the world needed most right now. It was never intended to be scientifically accurate as it was quite obviously romanticized by adding my personal feelings of being separated from and longing for the one I can't live without. I wrote these words from the bottom of my heart and never expected so many people to connect with them.

Like with anything else in life too much of one thing has the potential to become dangerous and while we don't know what goes on in these little penguins I've been advised by the scientific community that anthropomorphizing animals can have a negative influence on them as it "can... lead to inappropriate behaviors towards wild animals". This is especially the case for animals living in such close proximity to the city as they are already dealing with various challenges. I have further been advised that these two could be related, ...the exact relation of these two is at this point probably hard to figure out but I am happy to hear that if they are not friends then they might at least be family.

Either way I believe that this was a truly beautiful and magical moment that spread so much love around the world. I also believe that humans protect what they can connect with and it acts as a reminder that we share this beautiful world with many other beings which come in various shapes and sizes, degrees of fluffiness and colors as well as with specific needs crucial for their survival. It presents us with just one of many reasons why we should protect the ones with no voice to stand up for themselves and most importantly it has shown us that if we care and come together we could change the world..."

Indeed, as the world reels from the widespread losses from the coronavirus pandemic, we need all the comfort we can get. If that comes in the form of a penguin photo that touches on the grief so many are experiencing and the connections that bring joy to our lives, so be it.

Several photos of the penguins are available for purchase on Baumgaertner's website.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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