We’ve all seen the pictures. A friend or acquaintance snapping a photo of the view outside the oval window on their flight. It’s become commonplace to travel. Our divided world is conveniently connected through air travel. We can endure (or enjoy), in only a few hours of flight, to explore far away places, visit relatives and expand our businesses to foreign countries. Have you ever thought of what it took for mankind to soar to the sky?
On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, achieved humanity's dream of flight after developing the first operational motor-operated airplane. Following this achievement other great minds built on that knowledge so that now we can sit on comfortable flights watching the latest movies beneath the comfort of warm blankets.
As I walked around the Wright Museum in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, I marveled at the snippets from the Wrights' lives that told the story of what it took for these men to invent, build and fly the first airplane. Many people believed that man could fly, as did the Wright brothers; but their curiosity didn’t stay there - they decided to investigate. They watched birds, they read the previous works of others who shared their curiosity, and they fashioned whatever was needed to move their theories from the realm of fantasy to that of reality.
There you can read snippets from their family history, see replicas of the Wright Flyer, ponder the diagrams and videos detailing their scientific approach to flight, and all their failed attempts and eventual successes. You can walk the paths that they flew and touch the stone edifices that marked the distances traveled in their first four flights. You can walk up Kill Devil Hill to the massive stone monument built in 1928 to honour them - which was also the site from which they launched their gliders.
As I explored the museum I reflected on my own dreams and whether I have what it takes to achieve them. But first I had to think about what stood out to me about the Wrights. This list is not exhaustive but if you have a chance to visit Kitty Hawk or to read up on the Wright brothers, then I’m sure other things will stand out to you. But this is what came to my mind:
They believed that men were meant to discover how to fly and they believed that they could be the men to discover those means.
They thought outside the box. They weren’t afraid to try new things and through their creativity, they invented aircraft controls. They even built their own wind tunnel to simulate flight experiments from which they took detailed notes.
They studied the existing body of work in aviation and figured out the next steps to take. Their mother, Susan Catherine Koerner Wright, had a sharp mechanical and mathematical mind and they had long practiced asking her for advice. They even spent many hours observing birds in flight - taking notes on how they changed directions with their wings.
They were focused and methodical in how they were going to solve the problems inherent in flight. They were disciplined and devoted to the work that it would take to achieve their dream.
They did not give up. They taught themselves to fly their gliders, and regardless of difficulties and setbacks they pressed through. At times they wanted to give up, to leave it to others to figure out what they couldn’t figure out, but they never gave in.
Struggling to persevere when things aren’t working is a part of life. That’s where a strong support system comes in. Their sister Katharine, their father Milton, and their two older brothers were always there to help the brothers through those tough moments - to speak truth loudly enough that they could hear it above their doubts.
“...we were lucky enough to grow up in a home environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused their curiosity.” - Orville Wright
My siblings and I were lucky enough to grow up in a similarly encouraging environment. And when, in the past year, my faith has stumbled and my pursuit of God’s plan for me has seemed too hard, I’m thankful for my own support system, and for these reminders of God’s goodness which keep my spirit from faltering, and give it wings to soar.
So what good things happened to you this week?