Friday, December 09, 2016


And they came, everyone whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the LORD's offering to be used . . . Exodus 35:21

It's one of those moments, one of those memories, which should be in brilliant colors, with loud dramatic music composed by John Williams, with hundreds of thousands watching from massive grandstands.  But it is a grainy, black and white, flickering image on a very small screen.  There were muted voices, silent prayers being offered that this time the rocket would not explode as it left the ground, a simple muttered "Godspeed," as John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.  It's an all-too-brief memory of so many years ago, of a transformative moment in our shared history.

John Glenn, who died at age 95 yesterday, came back a hero.  So much of one, that the president issued a secret order forbidding him from flying again for fear of losing this icon.  So Glenn dedicated the rest of his life to public service, to becoming one of those people that others knew they could count on in the tough moments.  He became the epitome of courage, and whenever people thought of the space program, his face came to mind.

But what about the folks who put him atop that rocket; the ones who helped him to put on his space suit, to squeeze into that tiny Mercury capsule?  What about the men and women who designed the computers, manned the gadgets and gizmos, came up with the formulas for the fuel?  What about the people who built the gantry, who assembled the rocket, who riveted the seams?  What about all those whose hearts had been stirred when they first looked at the stars as a kid; whose spirits were willing to spend long, lonely hours in labs in pursuit of dreams everyone laughed at; those people who spent days in libraries studying chemistry, physics, calculus, and other things so many of us find so complicated, simply in order that one person might fulfill the dreams of others?  They didn't get the ticker-tape parade.  They didn't get the interviews on television.  They didn't have the public adulation, the honors that came along John Glenn's way.   

No, they simply went about their jobs.  Offering their hearts, their minds, their spirits, their lives in the ages-old dream of reaching out to the stars.  We don't know their names (though their families do), we don't remember their achievements, we don't honor them on their passing.  But without them, John Glenn would not have been the hero he became. 

Without the unnamed, forgotten, overlooked 'everyone' who are all around us, students would not be taught, patients would not be nursed, the hungry would not be fed, the homeless would not be housed, the cold would not be sheltered.

Prayer:  In a world that honors the individual, Star casting God, help us to join everyone who simply dreams, reaches, serves, cares for those around them.  Amen.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman