What are the things that you can’t see that are important?
President Jimmy Carter once posed that question and answered it by saying, “I would say justice, truth, humility, service, compassion and love. You can’t see any of those, but they’re the guiding lights of life.”
A recent photograph of the Mackinac Bridge shrouded in fog except for one of its giant towers rising 552 feet above the water is a great example of what you can’t see but know is there and can trust.
This bridge was designed by David Steinman and opened on November 1, 1957. Taking 48 months to complete, the bridge stretches 8,614 feet with a total span of five miles, making it the fourth-longest suspension bridge in the world.
It connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan and the communities of Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. Two towers rise 552 feet above the water, 142 into the waters and 105 feet into the lake bottom.
This huge suspension bridge was built to accommodate high winds, temperature changes and constant changes of weight. Severe conditions could move the deck at center span up to 35 feet. Under more subtle conditions, the deck could move slowly in one direction based on the force and direction of the winds.
Using 89,000 blueprints and structural drawings, the bridge was built with 71,300 tons of structural steel, 931,000 tons of concrete, 42,000 miles of cable wire,1,016,600 steel bolts and 4,851,700 rivets.
In the photograph none of that was evident save for the one tall tower. It seemed there was nothing but mist in the air after leaving the solid ground.
What kind of driver or pedestrian would step off into that oblivion? Only an individual who knew the support and type of foundation underneath would courageously and confidently set forth on toward their destination. Without the knowledge of what was hidden just underneath those water droplets hanging in the air, I certainly would not be willing to move forward.
As students and teachers begin to prepare for the new school year, each has some form of apprehension about the unknown. New colleagues, new curriculum, different classmates, new teachers and perhaps a brand-new school setting may offer a foggy look at the upcoming school year.
Will there be days of frustration over difficult tasks? What if the path is not what is expected and becomes daunting and difficult to navigate? Will there be anyone to offer support along the way? What if it is scary and unpredictable?
There are many reasons to be apprehensive and wonder what lies ahead in the new year. No doubt, a school year holds many opportunities for awesome experiences, but it could equally offer challenging days as well for individuals on both sides of the desk.
Each day the Mackinac Suspension Bridge, also known as the Mighty Mac, connects communities and offers economic benefit and improved quality of life to those traveling across its span. These travelers are sure of what lies beneath them.
Fog, mist, rain and snow might affect visibility but if deemed safe to travel by the bridge authorities, their journey will be possible because of the structural integrity and competency of the planners and builders in 1957. The bridge may sway a little but will return to the centered deck allowing for travel. That’s the way it was designed and the intent to allow for it to exist in the Michigan peninsulas’ environment.
Staff members are working diligently planning the upcoming year of education for students and instructors. Regardless of the grade levels, primary through post graduate, there will be a nagging concern about what lies ahead.
Take courage students and educators, you are prepared and ready to face the challenge and embrace the excitement of learning new things. It is the belief in those things unseen, awaiting you just under the cloudy mist, that will see you through.
Justice, truth, humility, service, compassion and love; these lights will guide you through. It’s going to be a great school year.
Dr. Sherry Durham