BOSTON — At night, we summer-camp counselors would stay up and recharge with adult conversation - from lighthearted talk about romance to weighty, often emotional discussions about civil rights, religion, and the Vietnam War.
It was July 1969. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
The first burst of nationalistic pride in the US triumph over the Russians gave way to more personal refelctions on the place of God in the vastness of space (now just a tad less vast with those first few steps).
Someone said, given the immensity of space, there must be a God. Someone else said, there wasn't any proof of this, just infinite emptiness.
One counselor was a young man from Thailand, another a young woman from Jamaica.
The Thai said, quite simply, that when we Americans thought about God, or prayed to Him, we always did so with words. When he worshiped - he danced, at which point he did just that, quieting us all with graceful, precise, circular movements.
His ritualized steps are etched in my memory alongside the footprints left in the moon's dust.
The Jamaican, who was shy, said that when she felt God's presence, she would sing. Though I forget the hymn she sang that night, I'll never forget the voice.
Jane Lampman's interview with Robert Seiple, the new US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom (page 17) is about another American launch - much closer to home - an effort to get nations to respect one another's right to worship.
The US shouldn't shy away from making that point. So long as it respects the dance, or song of faith, from whatever sincere source, these footsteps, too, will be for all mankind.