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Monday, September 12, 2016

The Good Bad Things

I recently read a biography of the Wright Brothers by David McCullough.  I have  admired Orville and Wilbur since reading and reporting about their lives when I was in the fifth grade.  Over the years I have visited the famous site of their first flight at Kill Devil Hills, the Wright museum, and seen their airplane sitting in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. .  

People who look at the details of the lives of these two men have often stated that it was their destiny to discover the secrets of flight; that that they were born at the right time, in the right place for this to happen.  In fact, Orville was once asked the secret of his success and he responded that the secret was to be born into  a loving family in Dayton, Ohio (paraphrase).  

But, if you look closely, you will discover that it was more than an accident of birth or the convergence of the right things at the right time.

Wilbur was a bright and curious child who excelled in school. His had a very outgoing personality  and he had plans to attend Yale after he graduated from high school. In the winter of 1885-86, an  accident happened that changed the course of Wilbur's life. He was severely injured in an ice hockey game, when another player's stick struck him in the face.  

Most of his injuries healed, but the the process of healing plunged Wilbur into a depression so severe that he did not receive his high school diploma, and he canceled his plans to attend Yale. He sought seclusion in his family’s home where he spent much of his time over the next three years reading books in his family’s library, and caring for his ailing mother, Susan, who died in 1889 of tuberculosis.

If Wilbur had attended Yale, would he have returned to Dayton, Ohio to work with his brother, Orville, in the bicycle shop, where they first developed an interest in becoming the first people to solve the problem of flight?  And if he had not returned, would Orville have remained in the bicycle shop the rest of his life?

It seems that the hockey stick accident changed the course not only of Wilbur and Orville's lives, but the course of history and the lives of countless thousands of people along the way.  Who could have predicted such an outcome?  

Sometimes the things we think are bad, when viewed through the lens of time, are actually gifts from the very hand of God.

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