Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The View from 25,000 Feet

The other day I was flying across the country from St. Louis to Paducah to Baltimore to Detroit. The day was cloudless along the entire route, providing a clear view of the landscape. I was struck by the physical features below me, looking remarkably similar to the physical maps my teacher used in class. I was able to identify streams, mountain chains, forests and, of course, an ocean. The colors of the topography did resemble my grandmother's patch quilt.

Interspersed among the natural features were interstate highways, farm fields, electrical lines, and the occasional clustering of buildings, making up a city or town. The manmade features crisscrossed over, around and through the natural features, adding interest to the visual effect.

From 25,000 feet there was one thing I was not able to discern, however: individuals. I could pick out an occasional truck or car along the highway and, sometimes even a structure, but I could not see any people.

I started to ponder the concept that the things people do often last longer than the individuals who do them. For example, the highways I saw were built by people I didn't know. The buildings I saw were constructed by individuals I never met. The squares of farmland were plowed and managed by farmers I'll never know.

That got me thinking about my life. How will what I build -- my family, my reputation, my relationships, and my influence -- last beyond me?

Will the next generation be able to see how I impacted the world without ever meeting me?

I would like to think they will.

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