Posted Jan 29, 2017 By Norris Burkes

As this century began, I was embedded with the launch crews at Cape Canaveral Air Station. I was their chaplain, providing moral support through counseling, encouragement and a calming presence. Best of all, I got to deliver the launch prayers for the Space Shuttle.

One morning in 2000, I drove to the Cape to bring a prayer for the launch crew. The weather was Florida-gorgeous, and from previous conversations with the engineers, I was expecting to hear “go for ignition.”

However, when I arrived, a bleary-eyed meteorologist whispered some insider’s intel.

“Bad weather will likely scrub our launch,” the lieutenant said.


“The weather is great here, but,” she said, pointing to a Doppler radar screen “Spain has thunderstorms.”

My crumpled face incited more schooling from the lieutenant.

“If the mission is aborted after launch, the Shuttle will need a place to land, right?”

I nodded.

“In that case, we’d have to abort the mission and send the Shuttle to Moron Air Base in Spain. Unfortunately, Spain is having monstrous thunderstorms today.”

I stood dumbstruck with irony that a weather problem hundreds of miles in the distance could scrub our launch under such beautiful skies.

“All we can do is focus on our weather here. We let the folks downrange worry about their weather.”

The lieutenant’s guidance to take care of business first in your own backyard was echoed last week by one of my readers in tiny Walterboro, S.C.

Her name is Leslie Montroy. Montroy is a 62-year-old grandmother working at a recycling plant. More importantly, we share the same awesomely cute grandsons.

“In this present climate of political upheaval and discourse, I’ve been feeling helpless and small. Yet, what can I do?” Montroy confessed. “I can’t change the presidency or march in a protest.

“Then it occurred to me,” she added. “What am I passionate about? What is important to me?”

I listened fixedly as she told me how she’s always been passionate to help the elderly in a local Meals-on-Wheels program. She shared her passion with her co-worker, Robert Cooper, and they drafted an idea.

Together, they started imagining what it might be like to organize the numerous churches in Walterboro to bring companionship to the elderly.

“What if 31 churches in town would send a team out each day to visit the elderly shut-ins? Just visit these people and become a listening friend.”

“Thirty-one days, 31 flavors of churches,” I suggested.

“Yes,” she said with a dutiful chuckle. “I don’t know how or if it’ll work yet, but I’m trying to find one thing, one problem, or adventure I can become passionate about in my community. If everyone would find a passion for helping in their own backyard, then just maybe we wouldn’t feel so helpless.”

Montroy calls this passion to help, “being strong where you are.”

“We need to imagine our efforts are like dropping a pebble in a still pond,” she explained. “When the ripples advance from our efforts, it might become a chain reaction of passion. We help the elderly and maybe that helps us all.

“There’s been lots of bad lately that has caused some bad chain reaction,” Montroy reflected. “Why can’t a good cause ignite a chain reaction too?

“I just don’t think it takes that much to stop feeling helpless.”

Montroy’s right. We can’t control the weather downrange from us. If we turn our focus toward our own backyard, we might just ignite hope and launch the dreams of the next generation – and our shared grandkids.

Makes sense to me. After all, it’s not rocket science.

– To see Norris’s latest book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving,” or to contact him about speaking, visit Or write him via P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain or call 843-608-9715.