For the want of a nail …

My junior high and high school Bible teacher used to recite this rhyme to us.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The meaning behind it — that the littlest things can affect such bigger things — hits me all the time! I think in some ways it’s a blame game, a way to take the responsibility off of ourselves and blame it on something else, in this case a nail.

I was reminded of this poem once again when I read this passage from “Some Trust In Chariots,” a book I am reading about the space shuttle Challenger incident. It is written by Gene Thomas who was launch director at the time. To set the scene, in the book Thomas has just written about the two days before Challenger launched and how and why launches were scrubbed on those days.

“I realized that had these two fateful incidents never occurred, the entire Challenger catastrophe might also never have happened. That fateful January 28, 1986 may have been avoided had we not gotten an incorrect weather prediction on Sunday, January 26. Challenger may never have occurred had we not experienced the failure of a two-bit hatch tool on Monday, January 27. Had we been able to launch under the conditions of either of those scrubbed opportunities, Challenger’s crew may have been spared. Surely the ‘O’ rings would have sealed properly under warmer conditions and America would be relishing the lessons of a teacher in space rather than mourning seven dead heroes. What a major part every event in history seems to play. Each minute detail must be in place to lead to a significantly historic event.”

This idea of how seemingly small details can have such large impacts is a topic I’m working on for another blog post. But I couldn’t let the opportunity pass of sharing a real-life example of something that I think deserves a lot of thought. Stay tuned ….


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