By John Berry, St. Vincent de Paul of Georgia
I recently finished reading a great book called ‘Rocket Men’ by Robert Kurson (Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon, April 3, 2018, Random House). The book tells the story of the first journey to the moon in December of 1968. I well remember that incredible mission and the excitement it created at home. What an amazing time.
The book has a picture in it that I also remember seeing in 1968. Probably anyone alive at that time remembers seeing that amazing photograph of the Earth, as seen for the first time ever from the Moon. The picture was named ‘Earthrise’ and it at the top of this column. I hadn’t seen it but occasionally for many years and I studied it intently when I saw it again. It brought back many memories; not all good. Because 1968 was a very troubled year. Vietnam, MLK, RFK, protests and violence. We who were at the beginning of our teens in those days (I was 13) wondered in 1968 whether we would see 1969; and sometimes even if we wanted to.
But as I stared at Earthrise in 2019, I was flooded by a different set of emotions and feelings. I looked at that picture and I reflected on the fact that I couldn’t see who was a liberal or a conservative, who was black or white, who was gay or straight, who was rich or poor, who was an immigrant, who was a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. I couldn’t see who was ‘different’.
All I could see was that we are inhabitants of the same very small and very insignificant satellite in the midst of the vast greatness of creation. We share a fragile and limited space in an immensity that we cannot truly comprehend from the vantage point of our limited view. From my vantage point in Atlanta, GA someone in Europe or Asia or the Middle East is far away. But when I look at this orb we call Earth I can see that in the big picture those people are not far away at all. They are my neighbors. They are as dependent on, and as responsible for, this home we have, and for each other, as I am.
This past Sunday the Gospel reading from the New Testament contains these words from Jesus Christ:
“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you”
While those words may come from the New Testament similar words are found in the Old Testament, the Koran, and the teachings of the Buddha. They are good words that we should ponder as we look at Earthrise. Because that picture shows us that on our tiny little planet we live together, and we live alone, in the vastness of creation.
We have nowhere else to go. So, we must live as one planet and one people, not judging the poor or condemning the ‘other’ but rather helping each person to live to his or her fullest potential and doing our part to make the world a better place. If we do that then we can address issues like poverty and equity with a determination and a commitment that overcomes differences we may have over the nuances of policy.