Hidden Figures: The Math Adds Up

Like many of you, I went to see the award winning movie, Hidden Figures. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it to you. It’s one of the best flicks I’ve ever attended.

Its setting is NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) during the time of the first astronauts being launched into space. The story revolves around the epic ride of John H. Glenn and the contributions of three mathematically exceptional women. The women were black, and they were treated like a lot of black women were treated in Virginia in the early 1960’s (as well as a lot of other places).

“I vacillated between tears and anger…”

During the show, I vacillated between tears and anger as I watched the racist attitudes at work—even in a place like NASA. It was a script “based on a true story,” and I’ve always wondered how closely Hollywood holds to the truth. So I spoke with someone who worked at the same NASA facility. Her assessment was that it was largely true and the movie was faithful to the actual facts.

The show depicted an era that occurred when I was twelve years old. I fully remember the major historical events of those years. I never realized the struggles behind those events, however. The movie was entertaining. But far beyond that, it was enlightening and inspiring as well.

I think that’s what grabbed me the most. I was living during that time. I remember when all that happened. I lived only two states away. But I was ignorant of so much of it. I was a twelve-year-old white kid living in a lily-white world. The only black people I ever saw were on TV (and they were major league ball players).

As I grew up, I slowly learned of the struggles of those I had never met. My heart ached for them, but it was all so far away from my reality. It was only as I entered college that I began to gather firsthand knowledge of how cruel the world could really be.

“Each of us has a role to play.”

It was then that the Lord began to pull me into the intersection of life and faith. It was then that I began to realize I could make a difference—no matter how small. I had to do it. It didn’t seem like an option.

Each of us has a role to play in the redemptive history of individuals, society, and institutions. They are predominantly minor parts to be sure. Still, they are important as God weaves his tapestry of salvation and renewal.

As I embarked on a journey to answer the call to full-time ministry, it was in response to the God who loves all people—me included. My role as a preacher turned out to be only a portion of my calling. I learned that my life in its entirety was a call to love and care for my brothers and sisters—all of them.

Sometimes the figures are hidden, but the math always adds up. “Love one another.” (John 13:34)

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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