Sunken Rock Lighthouse, NY

The Olympics represent the highest goal for athletes who have trained  for competition, dreaming of winning a gold, silver or bronze medal. It’s a time to find out who will be recognized for being the best at their sport.

People have competed for recognition since before the Olympics began in ancient Greece.   A desire to be the best spurs them on to higher performance.

So it is no wonder that even in the lighthouse service there was a competition between light keepers. According to Instructions to Light Keepers, “Light keepers who have been commended for efficiency at each quarterly inspection for a fiscal year shall be entitled to wear the inspector’s efficiency star for the succeeding fiscal year. “ In addition, there was a higher award for those light keepers who earned the efficiency star for three successive years. These light keepers received the Commissioner’s efficiency star.

In 1912, when Horace Walts became the keeper of the Sunken Rock Lighthouse in the St. Lawrence River, he was determined to win that star. However, his job had additional challenges not common to other light keepers. Because there was no room for a keeper’s house on the rocks where the lighthouse stood, Keeper Walts had to live on the mainland and row to the light each day to maintain it. Each morning, he rowed over to extinguish the light, draw the curtains that protected it from the sun during the daytime, clean and polish the lens and the lighthouse, then relight the light at dusk before he rowed back home.

His diligence paid off. Not only did he win the inspector’s efficiency star, but he earned the Commissioner’s efficiency star. In fact, he earned the efficiency star for nine consecutive years. Horace performed his task to the best of his ability and it paid off in awards.

Sometimes, however, our own personal best is not as good as someone else’s. The Olympics is a good example. Thousands of athletes perform their best, but not all will win a medal. Does that mean they shouldn’t try? What if there were no medals to win?

The truth is we are only accountable for how well we do with what we have. Not everyone is built the same way, and some people have more advantages. Regardless, our personal best is something only we can do. So, if one doesn’t win an award, are they failures? No, a failure is someone who didn’t try. In the end, we won’t be compared to anyone else. We will only be judged by what we did with what we had.

“You, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” Psalm 62:12