There’s a saying by the Dakota Indians: We will be known by the tracks we leave behind.

Never has this been truer than when it is concerned with the extraordinary life of Neil Armstrong, who died just a few days ago. He was the first man to set foot on the moon, and was followed shortly thereafter by Buzz Aldrin. They first announced, “The eagle has landed,” while fellow astronaut Michael Collins remained in the capsule.

Nowadays, we take the moon landing as something inevitable, but in July, 1969, the astronauts were far from assured of success, and, in a sense, they were putting their lives in jeopardy, doing something never done before. I read online that the astronauts of Apollo 11 could not get life insurance before launch themselves into space in case they were to die, so in an attempt to provide for their families, they sold sealed envelopes containing their autograph.

They proceeded in faith, though, and Armstrong, upon taking the first step of on the moon, famously said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Throughout his life, Armstrong remained a reluctant hero, filled with wisdom and humility. He may never have been featured on a box of Wheaties, but he changed the way we look at the world and its importance in the universe.

In a Life magazine article just a few months before launching himself into orbit, Armstrong noted, “The single thing which makes any man happiest is the realization that he has worked up to the limits of his ability, his capacity.” He continued, “It’s all the better, of course, if this work has made a contribution to knowledge, or toward moving the human race a little farther forward.”

Words to ponder in how we spend our days, and how we conclude what is most important to us.

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