Astronomy has never really been my thing. But today I got to do something really cool. Ava’s class took a field trip to Perkins Observatory, and Gabe, Nina and I tagged along.
The Director of the Observatory is a guy named Tom Burns. A hoot, a gem, and a genius all rolled into one. And amazing with kids. I learned (and laughed) more from his guided tour today than I’ve learned (and laughed) in quite a while. Wow.
My favorite part of the day (besides launching the homemade 2-liter rocket inside and looking at the sun with eclipse glasses and seeing this crazy-huge telescope) was when he took us all to the library (the walls were lined with old books!) and told us a story.
p.s. The library was heaven for both Gabe and me. For me, it was the books (obvs). For him, it was the TWENTY-NINE MAC COMPUTERS (all makes and model from the Mac Classic on up). And Gabe’s pretty enthralled with all things space/universe/cosmos too, so it was double-cool.
Anyway, Mr. Tom told us the story of Hiram Perkins who grew up in the early-to-mid-1800’s as the son of poor pig farmers. He dreamed of going to college, but that wasn’t going to happen. Except that his parents wanted their son to pursue his dreams, so they went without food until they scrimped and saved enough.
Then he became a professor (of astronomy, I assume) at Ohio Wesleyan University (right up the road from us) until he quit. Not because he didn’t love his job, but because his country was now in the middle of a Civil War, and he wanted to help. However, he was rejected by the Army. Guess why. He was too skinny. Over 6 feet tall and weighed 97 pounds. Yeah, I know.
So. He went back to his parents’ farm and raised pigs to sell to the Union troops. At the end of the war, he had a whopping $89,000 in the bank. “I’m not touching it,” he said. “It’s blood money.”
And he didn’t. He went back to teaching. For $400/year. And bought a new suit once every 10 years. And after 42 years of teaching, he retired.
And realized he had $290,000 in the bank.
In 1923, he had a gigundo telescope built. With a dome. And a building. And he died before it was completed. But it was his dream that students could come and learn about space. And they have. And they do.
And he made a stipulation about the observatory. His family Bible must be kept on display. And opened to Psalm 19:1–“The heavens declare the glory of God.”
And Mr. Tom, with tears in his eyes, told those 52 2nd-graders to dream big, to reach for the stars, and to appreciate their teachers.
And even though I’ve always been more of a Giraffe Girl than a Jupiter Girl, I can’t wait to go back some Friday night as a family and look at some of God’s blow-me-away, far-in-the-distance creation through a massive telescope.
Makes me want to break out in song.
My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do! My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do! The mountains are His! The valleys are His! THE STARS ARE HIS HANDIWORK TOO! My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do!
Have a wonderful weekend, friends!