A Humbling Encounter

Throughout my life I have encountered a great many people but I’ve rarely stopped to consider the possible effects of those encounters. Today I am reminiscing about one of them.

On April 1, 1996 I received a letter that would have been easy to disregard as an April Fool’s joke. It began, “I was a student in your grade one class at Glenayre Elementary School in 1959-1960. Although it is unlikely that you remember me, I do remember you… I am writing this letter to you so that you won’t be bewildered when you receive an invitation in the next week or so from NASA inviting you to a Shuttle launch. I am now an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency….” The letter was signed by Bob Thirsk and it was no joke.

Thus began one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I met with Bob and was interviewed by magazine and newspaper reporters. A headline in the Vancouver Sun on December 7, 1996 proclaimed, “Teacher helped propel astronaut’s dream: Robert Thirsk returns to his Grade One classroom in Port Moody for a reunion with his first math teacher.”  Who, me?  It was, and still is, mind-boggling.

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk
Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Today he blasted off again, this time from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station. Expedition 20/21 is another history-making mission taking Robert Thirsk on the first Canadian long-duration flight where he will live and work on board the ISS for six months. “It will also be the first time all five international space agencies — NASA, Russia’s Roskosmos, Japan’s JAXA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — are represented at the station simultaneously.”


My link with this history-making event is miniscule, but it is a reminder that we can never be sure what purpose God has for us.  Our task is simply to turn up each day and live our lives to the best of our ability, always depending on God’s guidance and giving him all praise and glory.


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

6 thoughts on “A Humbling Encounter

  1. Awesome – It’s cool to look back & see cases where we’ve had a positive influence on someone… but a math teacher??? Ugh!!! I was going to be an English teacher, ended up being a building builder & a coach.

    Math was not my favorite. (I should say favourite I guess since I’m crossin’ the border.) I never figured (it’s not figoured – right? Just kidding) I’d have a need for it. Wow was I wrong. Just think… if I’d only had a great math teacher… I could be orbiting the earth right now. Maybe not. I don’t like to fly. Oh well.

    (We watch shuttle launches from our front porch.)

  2. Don’t knock it… building buildings is just as important as teaching. We need good sound buildings just like we need good sound minds. Where would we be without schools and hospitals and offices? Were you familiar with the world renown architecture of Canadian Arthur Erickson? He died last week but his legacy is awesome.

    BTW, I envy you your launch viewing location! I have to be satisfied watching them via TV.

  3. That is the most exciting thing I’ve heard in a long, long time. I’m so proud to know you, Carol. You impacted his life and look where it took him. Wonderful. Outstanding. That must have been a wonderful day. You witnessed history.

    You weren’t able to attend today’s launch, but I bet you were there in spirit.

  4. My fate as a builder of buildings was sealed. My great grandfather was an architect & builder & A CANADIAN (Nova Scotia). My dad was a builder – which is how I met my awesome wife (we built her parents house – sorta funny story – when I saw her – I announced that I was going to marry her – before we ever dated.) My 2 sons are Project Managers – both build buildings in Pennsylvania. There are pics of their work on an older blog post (I asked to see what they were building, like a dummy) – Oldest son Mike sent pics of a historic renovation project at the state capitol – younger son Chris sent pics of 2 of his ‘new’ buildings on the outskirts of Philly …. both burning to the ground. His sense of humor mirrors mine I’m afraid.

  5. Joylene, I was only one of many teachers that Bob Thirsk had throughout his extensive education. That I happened to be the first was undoubtedly God’s doing, and when I think about it I’m always a little awestruck!

    Dave, that’s quite a heritage of builders (and humorists) in your family. Do you attribute it to genetics or environmental influence? 🙂 In my family there are a lot of artists and musicians. (I dabble in both but don’t excel.) In my husband’s family there is a succession of clergymen. (His great-g-g-grandfather preached the first protestant sermon in Upper Canada. There’s a plaque to him just outside of Morrisburg, ON.) Genealogy reveals all sorts of quirky tidbits!

  6. I’ll have to say environmental influence. I needed money &, in my house, that meant you worked to earn it. (I continued that “earn it” tradition with my boys.) Weeding gardens, picking strawberries & collecting soda bottles was not paying the big bucks in those days, so, at 11, I went to work for my dad – summers & weekends – starting out at $1 per hour. By the time I was 15, I could read prints & frame a house (& do most anything else). By 18, I decided I knew everything (& my dad took on a partner – never figured that one out) so I went out into the world to build “stuff” – committed to working in the business only from the neck up.

    There were no members of the clergy in my family. My grandfather (on my father’s side) was a mechanic, when he could get through the alcoholic haze to locate a wrench, & was actually on the run from the law when he kicked the bucket. It would be a sadder story but I never met him & my dad (who was incredible) rarely had any contact with him. Dad’s so-called ‘parents’ abandoned him when he was 3 – left him & his infant brother alone in an apartment & skipped town. Nice start to life. I posted about my dad last June for Father’s Day. Don’t think I’m up to doing that again for a bit. It was draining. Have a great weekend. DE

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