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An Amazing Third Grader and Kennedy’s Moonshot: Finding an Empowering Purpose

Ten-year-old Sara Hinesley recently won a national handwriting contest. The third grader’s writing is much better than mine ever was. She won $500 for her efforts.

She also has no hands. 

Sara holds a pencil between the ends of her arms to write. She told reporters that when her teacher first taught her how to write in cursive, Sara found she had a natural talent for it. She also likes to create art, ride her bike, read, and swim. 

Sara’s family briefly considered obtaining prosthetic hands for her, but decided she is doing fine without them. “She is so amazing and functional without prosthetics that really there is not a need,” her mother said. “She can do just about anything—often times better than me or my husband.” 

Have you cried at work? 

Such hopeful stories are especially powerful in a time of great anxiety

In fact, Gallup reports that Americans are among the most stressed people in the world. Our rates of stress and worry are higher than ever before. Remarkably, our negative emotions are even higher than during the Great Recession. 

According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans say stress impacts their work negatively. Forty-eight percent have cried at work; 50 percent missed at least one day of work during the last year because of stress induced at the office. 

However, we’ve been here before. 

A hard year and an historic announcement 

1961 was a difficult year for America. Despite the hope engendered by President John Kennedy’s inauguration, world and national events were deeply discouraging. 

On January 3, the US severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. On January 9, British authorities announced the discovery of a huge Soviet spy ring. 

On April 12, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel in space, signaling the Soviet Union’s growing superiority in the space race. On April 19, the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba failed. 

On May 14, civil rights protesters were beaten by a mob of Ku Klux Klan members. On May 21, Alabama Governor John Patterson declared martial law in an attempt to restore order after race riots broke out. 

Then, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy announced before a special session of Congress the goal of sending an American safely to the moon before the end of the decade. 

Douglas Brinkley’s new book, American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race, explains why the new president made his announcement when he did: “World War II and the Cold War, he knew, had aged the country. With instincts reinforced by his own life experiences, he realized that the United States needed youth and new frontiers. It needed energy, originality, optimism, and a sense of both individual achievement and teamwork.” 

“Knights of American exceptionalism” 

According to Brinkley, “NASA astronauts were going to be seen as knights of American exceptionalism—when a Mercury astronaut eventually broke the shackles of Earth to soar into space . . . the buzz would be that America had pioneered into the galaxy, proving definitively that democratic capitalism was superior to state-run communism.” 

Tragically, Kennedy did not live to see the lunar landing on July 20, 1969, but Brinkley believes that his vision and leadership made it possible: “What Kennedy had miraculously done was bring together Americans on the political right and left in a collective we’re-all-in-it-together endeavor of great scientific merit.” 

Brinkley concludes: “Throughout the United States there is a hunger today for another ‘moonshot,’ some shared national endeavor that will transcend partisan politics.” 

“Surely, I am coming soon.” 

The National Day of Prayer was held again yesterday, concluding with an observance last night in Washington, DC. Leading up to the day, a group set up in front of the Capitol for a ninety-hour Bible reading marathon. They concluded by reading aloud the final chapter of Revelation. 

Here we find the “moonshot” that transcends partisan politics and gives us a purpose greater than ourselves. It calls us beyond the stress and negativity of our fallen culture and summons us to our best selves. 

In Revelation 22, Jesus declares, “Surely, I am coming soon” (v. 20a). This is the fifth time our Lord makes this promise in the Revelation. “Surely” adds even greater weight to his proclamation. 

Imagine a nation in which every person lived ready for Jesus’ return. A culture in which we made Christ our Lord and King, living by his word for his glory and loving each other as he loves us. 

Now decide that whether anyone else lives as if Jesus were coming soon, you will. Your passion for your Father and love for your neighbor will then mark your life in a way that will impact other lives. 

“Come, Lord Jesus!” 

If you live every day as if it were your last day, one day you’ll be right. In the meantime, every day will be the best you can make it. 

John responded to his Lord: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (v. 20b). 

Can you say the same?

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Publication Date: May 3, 2019

Photo Courtesy: Estee Janssens/Unsplash

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