This weekend I visited the Johnson Space Center of “Houston, we have a problem” fame. I will admit that I had always been a cynic when it came to the first “moon landing” and was largely inclined to agree with the conspiracy theorists who believed it was all one big hoax. That was until I actually visited the space center and saw with my own eyes the colossal shuttles that transported men like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to a place so little known to man. The intricacy with which such journeys are planned and detailed is both fascinating and inspiring. Standing on the moon, glancing back at the tiny Earth, those astronauts must have been overwhelmed by the achievement of doing what many deemed unthinkable.
It is this idea of the seemingly impossible that truly struck me during our visit. As we sat inside a mock-up space shuttle and watched a video of the Earth’s surface as seen on a return journey from space, the voice-over said something that will stay with me for a long time; perhaps forever. He said that people believed it was impossible to send a man to the moon purely because it had never been done before. Yet, through determination it became a reality. And in this same way we should all believe that we can achieve the things that seem unattainable, such as ending extreme poverty. I was so encouraged by this parting thought and it made me realise that I am one of those who needs to “see to believe”. And I think many of us are.
My fourth small change was penned in the aftermath of the London riots and I made a commitment to attempt to dig deeper before passing judgement on a person or a situation. While I think I am better than I used to be, this weekend’s trip made me realise that my cynicism has infiltrated much deeper than I realise and it has the potential to hinder my personal and our collective potential in fighting poverty. I easily “tut” at those who don’t seem to care about the issues that I see as gross injustices but I don’t take the time to ask what it is that they care passionately about.
I think I have a long way to go – when it comes to being less judgmental – but I am sure that is exactly what the many, many people thought during the years of hard work that it took to achieve the success of the Apollo 11 mission. Yet if I truly believe that we can achieve an end to extreme poverty, I am already denying the cynic in me who would say “impossible”. To her I say, “We can do it because they have not put one man on the moon; they have put many.”