Leaving behind footprints in the sands of time

Published 7:30 am Sunday, July 16, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong spoke those famous words on July 20, 1969 upon taking his first step on the moon.

Fifty-four years ago, astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Armstrong traveled 239,000 miles from the earth to the moon in three days. After their space craft entered the lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the lunar module – the Eagle – landing on the moon.

Reportedly, more than half a billion people watched on television as Armstrong climbed down the ladder and put his left foot on the moon. Aldrin set foot on the moon fifteen minutes after Armstrong. They explored the lunar surface for two and a half hours, collecting samples of rocks, as well as taking photographs. Our family watched that historic moment on our black and white TV screen.

They left behind an American flag and a plaque that read, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” Over the next three and a half years, ten astronauts followed in their footsteps – one of the last was Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, the final Apollo mission in 1972.

I found it interesting that, according to NASA, the footprints on the moon will be there for a million years because there is no wind to blow them away. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has written, “Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime. And, departing, leave behind us footprints in the sands of time.”

Someone once said, “The footprints you leave behind will influence others. There is no person who at some time, somewhere, somehow, does not lead another.” 1 Peter 2:21 reminds each of us that Christ walked on planet earth, “leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” The apostle Paul wanted to live his life so that anyone who followed him, followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

There’s a song whose words speak of the footprints we should leave behind. “We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road and those who’ve gone before us line the way, cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary – their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace….as those who’ve gone before us, let us leave to those behind us the heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.

“After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone and our children sift through all we’ve left behind may the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover become the light that leads them to the road we each must find.

“Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful may the fire of our devotion light their way may the footprints that we leave lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey. Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.”

When you and I depart from life in this world, what kind of prints will we leave? Generations to come will be following us.

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”