Following our Wesley tour last month Susan and I took another week to visit Ireland. Though I lived in England for a year I never got to this neighboring nation. It's always fun to me to visit places I've never been and discover new things. One of those discoveries came in Clifden, Ireland. This was where the first non-stop transatlantic flight landed 100 years ago. Two pilots, John Alcock and Arthur Brown, flew from Nova Scotia and landed in a bog at Clifden. They weren't sure exactly where they were. They just knew they saw land below them and that meant they made it across the Atlantic.
I found it interesting to learn of the challenges they experienced. At one point their instruments froze, and they had no way to determine altitude, location, speed, etc. The plane got within ten feet of the water and they nearly crashed. But in the end, they emerged the first persons to fly across the water. (They made it in just over 16 hours. A few years ago a replica plane was made to re-enact the event. That time it took 19 hours!)
Amazing to think that just 50 years after this flight three men landed on the moon! Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's safe touchdown on the lunar surface and the emergence a few hours later of astronaut Neil Armstrong. We will never forget his famous words as he became the first human being to set foot on the moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Well, that small step was more than the one Armstrong took from the lunar module. There were many small steps taken across many years, from the Wright Brothers to Alcock and Brown to Lindbergh and eventually the pilots and astronauts who led the way to Apollo 11.
It's a good reminder that our achievements and successes in life are not our own. We stand on the shoulders of others. It's so easy to forget that simple things we do today, like turn on a light switch or make a phone call, came from years of small steps of failure and success that eventually led to breakthroughs of discovery. Considering just air flight and astronauts, think of the ones who died along the way risking their lives for such discoveries.
We all stand on the successes and sacrifices of those who have gone before us. Our faith should keep us humble in that regard. We are never without that reminder when we worship. We see a cross before us declaring that God gave his son for us. This fact alone makes Christianity an important influence in our world. Without humble reminders of our dependence on what has been done for us, we create a world that sees our steps as the only ones that matter.
Tomorrow I will remember my parents getting me out of bed and telling me to come watch the television. I would forever remember this moment, they told me. They were right. I continue to be humbled by what happened 50 years ago...and more than 2,000 years ago.