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One Wright was Wrong, and Two Wrights were Right

November 4, 2019

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, when the Methodist church was holding its denominational convention, one leader stood up and shared his vision both for the church and society at large. He told the ministers and evangelists how he believed someday men would fly from place to place instead of merely traveling on horseback. But it was a concept too outlandish for many members to handle.

One minister, Bishop Wright, stood up and angrily protested. “Heresy!” he shouted. “Flight is reserved for the angels!” He went on to elaborate that if God had intended for man to fly, He would have given him wings. Clearly the bishop was unable to envision what the speaker was predicting. When Bishop Wright finished his brief protest, he gathered up his two sons, Orville and Wilbur, and left the auditorium.

That’s right. His sons were Orville and Wilbur Wright. Several years later, on December 17, 1903, those two sons did what their father called impossible. They made four flights that day. The first lasted only 12 seconds, but the fourth lasted 59 seconds and took them 852 feet. The two brothers partnered together to accomplish the impossible – and in the process, they changed the world. They discovered the power of partnership.

Let me share another story about Orville and Wilbur Wright. Columnist Harvey Mackey shared this true story in his newspaper column.

Early in the development of flight, the Wright brothers (Orville and Wilbur) were largely dismissed at home in America. They had to go abroad to get proper recognition for their aeronautical achievements. The French government gave the Wright brothers an opportunity to demonstrate what they had done. However, the French were obviously jealous of the two modest Americans.

At a banquet in Paris to honor the accomplishments of the Wright brothers, the chief speaker at the dinner devoted most of his remarks to claiming France had led the world in aviation exploration and would do so in the future. He gave very little praise to the two American guests.

When Wilbur Wright was called upon to speak, he said: "I am no hand at public speaking, and so I must on this occasion content myself with a few words. As I sat here listening to the speaker who preceded me, I heard his comparisons made to the eagle, to the swallow, and to the hawk as typifying skill and speed in mastery of the air. But somehow or other, I could not keep from thinking of the parrot which, of all the ornithological kingdom, is the poorest flier and the best talker." No comment needed.

Notice the two types of speakers we have in these two accounts. Both were full of hubris. Both were condescending. Both spoke from their preconceived biases. One was proud and short-sighted. The other’s head was so far in the clouds, he couldn’t see the real heroes sitting right in front of him. Don’t be too hard on those two speakers. We all been like those them from time to time. Lesson: While it’s hard to get off our high horse, it might be much harder if we don’t.

While others waxed eloquent in their arenas, Orville and Wilbur just went on with the business of building an airplane. They understood inspiration must turn into perspiration. With good old-fashioned grit, primitive engineering skills, humility, and with few assets, they turned old bicycles and unreliable engines into an achievement that turned the world right-side up. They shifted the playing field. They moved from ‘tell-a-vison’ to ‘do-a-vision.’ It was a “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” moment, not even recognized by those in their own country.

The Wright brothers and their ilk aren’t distracted by the ‘parrots’ who keep parading throughout history, busy convincing their audiences they are eagles, swallows, and hawks. No, they just kept on keeping on, doing what is Wright, accomplishing the mission, accomplishing great things that are real, tangible and lasting for the benefit of all. 

No seeking the glory here. Just finding a need and meeting it. I want to say thank you to the researchers, nurses, doctors, pastors, IT people, pharmacists, front line responders, elementary teachers, Sunday school teachers and workers, workers in factories, volunteers, business owners and their employees, the military, ironworkers, machinists, printers, binders, janitors and the like that are too busy accomplishing something to be distracted by static in the airwaves.

Obviously, I could only mention a few heroes in this article so if I missed you, it wasn’t intentional. You know who you are. You are the ones who make countries work. I say to you, like many others in our community, well done. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when no one gets the glory.

This reminds me of Jesus and the work He accomplished. No glory-seeking. No stately form that you would notice Him. Jesus wore "blue jeans." Humble, mounted on a colt, engaging the nameless, faceless, and needy, equipping all people for life, salt and light for a world that needs it, giving grace to all who will accept it. A model for all of us to emulate.

You see that? One Wright made a wrong. Two Wright’s made a right. And the parrots are still talking about it. 

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com