On this day in 1927, Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight. His single-engine monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, lifted off from Roosevelt Field in New York thirty-three-and-a-half hours earlier.
To reduce weight, everything that was not essential was removed. He had no radio, gas gauge, night-flying lights, navigation equipment, or parachute.
The main fuel tank was placed in front of the cockpit, since it would be safest there if the plane crashed. This meant Lindbergh had no forward vision, so a periscope was added.
At one point, Lindbergh held his eyes open with his fingers and hallucinated that ghosts were passing through the cockpit. Finally, at 10:22 p.m. local time, his gray and white monoplane made a perfect landing at Le Bourget Aerodrome in Paris.
Charles Lindbergh became the first global celebrity. President Calvin Coolidge dispatched a warship to bring him home; he was given a tickertape parade in New York and presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
On this day five years later, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete such a flight.
Her flight was fraught with difficulties: a leaky fuel tank, a cracked manifold that spewed flames out the side of the engine cowling, and ice that formed on the plane’s wings and caused a three-thousand-foot descent to just above the ocean’s waves.
Like Lindbergh, Earhart intended to land in Paris, but weather and mechanical problems forced her to land at a farm near Derry, Ireland. She described her landing in a pasture: “After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood, I pulled up in a farmer’s back yard.”
Also like Lindbergh, Earhart received a tickertape parade in New York. She was awarded a National Geographic Society medal by President Herbert Hoover and the Distinguished Flying Cross by Congress.
The privilege and power of community
Unlike Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, you and I are not intended to complete the “flight” of life on our own.
When God made the first man, he said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We are to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). That’s why Scripture encourages us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
For Christians, such community is found in Christ. The closer we draw to him, the closer we draw to each other.
Henri Nouwen: “Community has little to do with mutual compatibility. Similarities in educational background, psychological makeup, or social status can bring us together, but they can never be the basis for community. Community is grounded in God, who calls us together, and not in the attractiveness of people to each other.”
He adds: “The mystery of community is precisely that it embraces all people, whatever their individual differences may be, and allows them to live together as brothers and sisters of Christ and sons and daughters of his heavenly Father.” Whose burden will you help to bear today? Who will help you bear yours?