During one of the most difficult moments of Sam Bloom’s life, a new friend in need waddled its way into her circle of caregivers: a small, injured magpie they named Penguin. As Sam worked to heal from her own accident, she found new, exciting meaning in helping Penguin the magpie heal, too! Here’s an example of the wonderful events that can pop up in our lives when we most need them and least expect them.

What happens when our idea of who we think we are changes? How do we rediscover ourselves in times of huge flux? Sometimes, our greatest friends in finding this new purpose in our lives show up in surprising places. In Sam Bloom’s case, her friend happened to fall right from a tree.

Here’s the story of how Penguin the magpie helped one family move through one of life’s major changes, and a reminder that rediscovering our meaning in those moments can come in unexpected ways!

Image: Penguin Bloom sitting on Sam Bloom's Shoulder

Photos by Cameron Bloom // @samjbloom // @penguinthemagpie

“I died four years ago, and then a wild bird brought me back to life.” -Sam Bloom 1

In 2013 while she was on a family vacation in Thailand, a balcony railing gave way, sending Sam Bloom plummeting 20 feet to the ground. The fall left her with numerous injuries, including a shattered spine. In a single life-changing moment, her life was irrevocably changed.

In the many months that followed, after leaving a rehabilitation center and returning home, she fell into a deep depression. Before her accident, she spent her time caring for her family, surfing, exploring the outdoors, and traveling the world. Her former sense of self had disappeared overnight—as she put it in her piece in a Time article, “I was no longer an independent woman, and I no longer thought of myself as a wife and mother.” 2

Enter: Penguin the Magpie

A few months after returning home, her son Noah discovered an injured baby magpie that had fallen from high in a tall pine tree. After no veterinarian would take her in, the family decided to try and nurse her back to health themselves.

With a waddling gait and black and white feathers, Bloom’s three boys decided to name the baby bird Penguin. And so, this needy new creature became a member of the Bloom family.

This new addition required constant attention, needing to be fed every two hours and kept warm constantly. This new responsibility fell on Sam, and soon, Penguin became a form of therapy.

“I didn’t feel as useless anymore; my instincts as nurse and mother revived when I was tending to this tiny, feathered soul. I didn’t realize it at the time but, in a way, we were keeping each other alive.” 3

To hear this story firsthand from Sam and her family is truly extraordinary, and an incredible reminder that at life’s moments of unexpected flux, sometimes we find hope in remarkable places.

Here’s Sam, Penguin, and the Bloom family in an incredible piece from 60 Minutes Australia!

‌If you want to hear more stories from 60 Minutes Australia, check out their YouTube channel!

You can learn more about Sam’s story by checking out her website and buying her book Sam Bloom: Heartache & Birdsong. Keep up with Sam’s story on Instagram and Facebook, too!

Recently, Netflix released a movie called Penguin Bloom, based on her husband Cameron’s book, Penguin the Magpie, which is absolutely beautiful. Be prepared to have a few tissues, and feel the full range of human emotions while you watch!

The moments that (re)define us!

Sam and Penguin’s story is a reminder of the way our understanding of ourselves can change in an instant. Our understanding of who we are and our purpose in the world can be shattered. But whether it’s in the squawk of a baby bird, or by embracing new adventures in life, with time we can come to find a new sense of self again.

We may find our fresh purpose in a craft, a loved one, or a new community! Resilience in moments of uncertainty is one of our most human traits. Here are a few of the stories I adore that we have written about that speak to the many incredible ways people have found meaning in moments of change.

9 minutes

When Everything Seems Dark, Here’s How to Find Some Light

The next time you or someone you love faces a heartbreaking turn of events, there is a recipe for the resilience it takes to come out the other side of a loss with a remarkable sense of progress. Here's a story that gives us all the keys to unimagined possibilities!

Read More

13 minutes

The Life Changing Work of a Master Craftsman

Behind the doors of Blue Ox Millworks, Eric Hollenbeck passes down generations of knowledge, instilling a sense of pride and healing with his work. By sharing the love for his craft, this woodworker is helping high schoolers and veterans alike find their own healing.

Read More

26 minutes

The World’s Oldest Dance Troupe Will Steal Your Heart! 

The oldest hip hop dance troupe in the world has a few things to show us about what happens when we let ourselves live without limits. Artificial hips, memory loss, and all, we can feel like life every day is a great celebration!

Read More

I hope if you or someone you love is experiencing a moment of flux in their lives, that this story brings the sense that new meaning is around the corner. That, no matter why we are feeling hopeless, those feelings can lead to new experiences and perhaps even new understandings of who we are and our purpose in life.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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Notes:

  1. “The Tiny Bird Who Saved My Life after a Devastating Accident.” Time, Time, 18 Apr. 2017, time.com/4742541/penguin-bloom-life-after-paralysis/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.
  2. “The Tiny Bird Who Saved My Life after a Devastating Accident.” Time, Time, 18 Apr. 2017, time.com/4742541/penguin-bloom-life-after-paralysis/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.
  3. “The Tiny Bird Who Saved My Life after a Devastating Accident.” Time, Time, 18 Apr. 2017, time.com/4742541/penguin-bloom-life-after-paralysis/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.
  4. 60 Minutes Australia. “The Incredible Story of How a Magpie Named Penguin Saved a Family | 60 Minutes Australia.” YouTube, 20 Jan. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY6chPJHv1w&feature=emb_title. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

CEO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at Ever Widening Circles. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV