Pepito and his brothers and sisters are bursting out of their nest. The cozy structure that kept them all safe and warm as chicks now can barely contain them. The only home they’ve known has become uncomfortable and cramped, and as birds do, they know it’s time to leave the nest. But there’s only one problem. Pepito is afraid of heights. As his brothers and sisters yearn to stretch their wings and fly, Pepito is left behind.
And so begins Pepito the Brave by Scott Beck. Pepito is a jaunty red bird, perhaps a robin, who knows who he is, what he must do, and what his limitations are. It’s not often a bird is afraid of heights, but in the world of children’s literature, anything can be, and so it is with Pepito. As his brothers and sisters take flight, Pepito realizes that he will have to go his own way. Alone at the base of the tree, Pepito sits and ponders his dilemma. How will he meet up with his brothers and sisters?
It’s not long before a friendly fox approaches Pepito with the advice of running. Pepito takes the fox’s advice and runs, until he comes to a fence. And so the book continues…affable, helpful animals offer Pepito advice on what they would do in his predicament, based on their experience and expertise. The frog suggests Pepito hop over the fence. When Pepito comes to a river, the fish advises Pepito to swim across. At the busy road, a gopher recommends that Pepito burrows under.
Pepito takes all of the advice given, and after running, hopping, swimming, and burrowing under, he finally sees the tree his brothers and sisters have flown to and he climbs right up. With wings flapping and beaks chirping, they excitedly ask him how he got to their tree. Pepito proudly recounts all the ways he reached the tree. His brothers and sisters peer at him with wide eyes, impressed at his fortitude and incredulous at his tenacity. But even as they are impressed, they can’t help but point out that if Pepito was brave enough to do all those things, surely he’s brave enough to fly! His brothers and sisters are right, of course, and “so they all flew off and Pepito led the way.”
Is it odd that I would find parallels between Pepito the Brave and the times we find ourselves in right now? Does it seem strange that a 27-page children’s book could offer some comfort in these days? Could the simple message of acceptance and working at your own pace speak to me, to us, during this crisis?
Pepito recognized and named his fear. In return, his brothers and sisters didn’t shame him. They didn’t try to talk him out of his fear or try to change it. Instead, they did what they needed to do, and were waiting for him when he finally reached them.
Pepito came across folks who offered their advice based on what worked for them. No one tried to turn Pepito into something he wasn’t. No one wondered what was wrong with him. Pepito kept an open mind, and tried different things. Nothing was a slam dunk, but each got him closer to reuniting with his family.
And finally, when Pepito reached the tree where his brothers and sisters were, he was met with love and acceptance and genuine joy. The important thing was they were together again, regardless of how that happened. They didn’t make fun of him. They didn’t hold a grudge. They didn’t judge how he got there. And then, in one of the most beautiful scenes in the whole story, they lovingly affirm Pepito’s bravery and at the same time, point out that maybe he can fly after all.
Perhaps this is all to say that what you’re doing is enough. That the feelings you are experiencing right now are ok. That if you are afraid of heights and need to stay close to the ground, do that. We will all get through this tremendous challenge in different ways. And your way might not look like my way which doesn’t look like her way which certainly doesn’t look like his way. Some may fly. Some may run. Some may hop. Some may swim. Some may climb. But in the end, we are all like Pepito’s brothers and sisters – eager to be together again. Ready and willing to support each other in whatever comes next.