On the outside, Peck the Woodpecker looked a lot like every other woodpecker in his family. But, Peck was different, and he knew it. He wasn’t like other woodpeckers, or any other bird for that matter. Peck was afraid of heights, which seemed silly, especially for a bird. He knew there was nothing to be afraid of, but that wasn’t enough to change the way he felt on the inside.
Sometimes Peck forgot he was different. Like, in the mornings, when all the other birds were foraging on the ground, or resting their tired wings on the lowest branches of the giant pecan tree, or eating their peanuts. Those were the moments he felt normal. Those were the moments he felt like he truly fit in.
But, that feeling never lasted long, because all the other birds soon retreated into their nests, built high up in the treetop.
Peck hid his secret and he hid it well.
He was positive no one knew he was afraid of heights and, in turn, of flying.
Some thought he was lazy, while others thought he was just plain rude. But, he didn’t care. Because, Peck was sure all of those things were better than someone knowing his real secret. If they knew that, he was positive they wouldn’t like him.
Peck was able to fool those around him for a really long time. Day in and day out, he pretended to be someone he was not. This went on for so long, that even he began to believe his own lies.
But, just as Peck started to think his secret was forever safe, everything changed.
Early one morning, moments after everyone had gathered around the feeder for breakfast, a Red-Tailed Hawk appeared high in the sky above. Of course, this wasn’t the first time a hawk had been spotted flying overhead, only the first time one had landed in their yard.
And, just like that, their peaceful breakfast turned into all out panic.
His friends began flying away in all directions, screeching loudly to the others, “Take cover!”
But, Peck didn’t move, he couldn’t. He just stood there, frozen.
It wasn’t long before the others noticed he was still down below, standing in plain view of the hungry hawk.
His friends frantically tried to get his attention, without giving away their own hiding place.
His family called to him from their hiding place at the very top of the tree.
It was then that Peck felt the hawk’s hungry eyes focus directly on him.
He’d been spotted.
Peck knew he had to make a choice and a fast one at that. He could either face his fear of heights and try to escape, or become someone’s breakfast.
So, he looked up to his family and friends and shouted, “I’m scared of heights, I’m afraid to fly! Someone has to help me!”
Without skipping a beat, his friends and family began cheering him on.
You can do it, Peck!
Start climbing, Peck, you haven’t much time! Just focus on me.
Inspired by his friend’s cheers, Peck began to climb.
Don’t look down, Peck! Just keep going!
But, Peck did look down.
And, he quickly felt the fear wash over him. He wanted more than anything to turn around and go back down. But, then he remembered that down wasn’t any safer.
The only way out of this was up.
As he turned around to keep going, he tripped over a piece of loose bark, and nearly toppled over backwards.
His friends gasped loudly. It was so hard to watch, some had to cover their eyes, or even turn away completely.
He heard his friend, Jay-B, shout, “Come on, bro, YOU GOT THIS!”
Then, the hungry hawk lifted his wings, and prepared to swoop down and grab Peck.
The time had come for Peck to make a decision and fast.
He had only two choices: keep climbing to safety, or he spread his wings and fly the rest of the way up.
If he continued to climb, he’d have the branches to cling to for safety. But, that would take much longer, and time wasn’t something he had on his side. Besides, only halfway up the tree, the hawk was sure to get to him before he got to the top.
Peck looked up once again.
And, then down .
That’s when he spotted his best friend, Wags – the wise, old squirrel that everyone went to for advice.
“Peck, you are so much stronger than you think. It’s time you believe in yourself as much as we believe in you. You can do this. Don’t think! Just spread your wings and fly!”
Peck took a deep breath and decided Wags was right. He had to trust himself if he had any chance at all of pulling this off.
So, he let his wings slowly rise up and do what they were made to do:
He flew from one branch to the next, until he finally reached the top.
Where he crawled inside the safe cavity of the tree, to join his family who’d been anxiously awaiting him.
He turned around just in time to see that hungry hawk give up, and fly off to search for breakfast some place else.
Scared no longer, Peck flew all around most of the day.
Later on that night, he asked his friends if they were shocked to discover his secret fear.
“Oh Peck, we’ve always known you were scared of heights and terrified of flying. But, we also have faith in you, and knew that one day you’d figure it all out. Besides, it didn’t matter to us at all. You are our friend and we love you no matter what – all of you – even those parts that you you don’t always love yourself. We all have those parts, you know.”
From that moment on, you could always find Peck way high up in that same pecan tree.
He rarely spent any time at all on the ground.
Unless, of course, it was for a peanut or two…