The July 21, 1969 issue of The Columbia Missourian said this about Michael Collins, third astronaut joining Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the first trip to the moon:
“While the world breathlessly watched and listened for the moon walk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins cruised in orbit overhead. His job was to undertake emergency action if something went wrong, or to pick them up from the lunar module for the return to Earth if everything went right.
“His great achievement—his fondest hope—is to be triumphantly unnoticed.”
It is easy to become discouraged when the lion’s share of the attention falls on one or two. Some folks seem made for attention. They thrive on it—work better in the midst of it. But all the attention in the world wouldn’t have helped Neil Armstrong get back to Earth if Michael Collins had decided to grab a little attention of his own and fly on home without him.
We need the Michael Collins in this world.
We need the Neil Armstrongs, too, but too often, while the Armstrongs are retelling their stories to whomever will listen, the Collins of the world are still out there plugging along, doing their work, “triumphantly unnoticed.”
Kind of like phenakite. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has a wonderful exhibit crammed in a corner on the third floor. The exhibit features gems and jewels from around the world.
One gem is phenakite.
Phenakite is actually more rare and more durable than diamonds . . . but, . . . you don’t ever hear about it because it’s not “flashy enough” to compete with diamonds. It’s a Michael Collins to the Armstrong-like diamond.
Michael Collins wasn’t flashy, and to this day, is the least known of the famous astronauts, but all three astronauts made it home, thanks to him.
Chances are, you’re a lot like phenakite . . . you get the job done without a lot of fanfare, without a lot of flash. And, though it may not always be fun to be “unnoticed,” how lost the world would be without you.
Sometimes, we forget that. Sometimes, we forget how important the little things we do every day are to people. I teach nutrition to children every Thursday, and every Thursday when I walk in their classroom, little children run up, hug my belly and tell me how happy they are to see me.
Am I changing the world? No. Am I changing theirs? Yes, and they change mine every Thursday.
I’ll never be famous.
I’ll never be Neil Armstong,
and that’s okay.