When Keeper John Walker first arrived at Robbins Reef Light with his wife Kate, she threatened to leave him. She had not expected to live surrounded by water. Eventually, though, she got used to living in a lighthouse in the middle of the channel leading to New York Harbor. Kate was appointed assistant lighthouse keeper and served in that capacity until John died three years later. His last words to her were, “Mind the light, Kate.”
Several men were offered the position John had vacated as keeper, but they all refused, saying the location was too lonely. So Kate, the forty-year-old mother of two, applied for the position. Objections were raised against her appointment due to her size, doubting she could handle a man’s job. At four-foot-ten and 100 pounds, the task seemed too large for the petite woman.
However, after receiving the appointment, Kate proved she was as good at the job as any man. Not only did she keep the light burning, she also rescued at least fifty people whose boats wrecked on the reef during storms. When fog rolled in, she had to go down into the basement to start the engine that sent out siren blasts. Occasionally, the motor broke down and Kate had to climb to the top of the tower to bang a huge bell.
Kate served as lighthouse keeper with her son as her assistant until the age of 73, when she retired. Her commitment to her position and diligence to the work was commemorated by the Coast Guard who erected a buoy in her honor. Silencing her critics, Kate proved that despite her small size, she was more than capable of “minding the light.”
Kate’s story reminds me of the story of David and Goliath in the Bible. David was a young shepherd boy who was willing to face a giant that terrorized grown men. Although ridiculed as “only a boy,” his commitment to his country and trust in God was bigger than the giant he faced. Of course, David was victorious, proving once again how appearances can be deceptive.
Too often we base our perception of people on what we see, not giving them a chance to show us who they really are. How unfair it is to make these judgments. But how human. And wrong.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b