Dean Bernachi who recently retired from the Mariposa School District as head of technology shared a story via e-mail to the whole district.

The e-mail that Dean shared was titled, Brown Shoes and a Red Helmet. Dean explained that not long ago he had a rare opportunity to ride on the U.S.S. Nimitz on what is called a ‘Tiger Cruise’ from Hawaii to San Diego. Aircraft carriers are floating cities with five to six thousand personal. They have movie theaters, stores, banks, gyms, shooting ranges, and galleys or kitchens that can serve up to 18,000 meals a day. Carriers have doctors, dentists, and telephones where crew can call home if they desire. As great as all that sounds, there is a down side to working on an aircraft carrier. For example, the flight deck can be dangerous, and not many crewmen have an opportunity to work out in the open. By far, the majority of the crew does not see sky in their normal work day. In fact, some may go weeks without seeing any sea or sky. Sleeping arrangements are cramped, with the crew sleeping in berthing compartments that hold about 60, and each person has a single bunk with a small locker for personal items. Bathrooms are shared and each compartment has a small area with a T.V. hooked up to a satellite dish.

Carriers are very tempting targets because they are so valuable. Consequently, they are escorted by cruisers, destroyers and nuclear powered attack submarines. The last aircraft carrier we lost was the Hornet, during World War II, in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. If you know your history, you will know the Hornet (CV-8) took part in the Doolittle Raid, and launched Torpedo Squadron 8. On a side note, the USS Hornet was replaced by another aircraft carrier (CV-12) which participated in WWII, Vietnam, and the Apollo program. This USS Hornet is docked in Alameda, California, and is a national historic landmark that is open for tours. I have been on the Hornet twice and would highly recommend the tour to anyone interested.

Dean said he experienced many events that he will not forget, but one occurrence that he shared was that everyone on the ship wore black shoes, except the pilots, who wore brown shoes. This simple visual difference was to emphasize that ultimately the work of the black shoes was to support those in the brown shoes. It was an aircraft carrier after all, and Dean explained the job of an aircraft carrier was to carry, launch and retrieve aircraft, support the missions of the pilots while on the ship and in the air. From maintenance to meals, those who wore black shoes supported the brown shoes so that they would be successful in their missions. He equated this to teachers being the brown shoes, and how valuable they are, and that everyone else in the district, including his former staff, had worn black shoes in support of the teachers.

It was an interesting analogy that made me immediately think of what kind of shoes we wear as Christians. I would imagine us, that is believers, being the black shoes doing the work of our Lord. Everyone else who is not a believer would be wearing brown shoes. Ultimately, what is it we are trying to accomplish? Win over to our side as many brown shoes as possible before their time ran out. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, (thankfully this is not Mission Impossible), is to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. All else is secondary to that mission. The pain and suffering we all endure as black shoes matters little compared to the importance of a successful mission for the brown shoes. I am not an evangelist and will never pretend to be one, at least not in in the sense of what we normally consider an evangelist, someone on a street corner, Bible in hand calling everyone to repent. Over the years, I have heard many from the pulpit share that we are all really evangelists and that is our calling. Given’s Dean’s e-mail, I suppose what they were saying is, we as Christians wearing black shoes have to support the operations of the brown shoes, (non-believers), until they have a successful mission. How you support the brown shoes will vary greatly. Some of us ride alongside the pilot, supporting their role as they actually are engaged in their worldly mission. Others take a more subtle role, providing clothing and meals to those that have a need, a quiet word, simple actions, loving tasks that bless others. Some that work in a background role as a black shoe might not meet any brown shoes in their work environment. Maybe over time, due to the stresses of real life, dealing with others who, like all of us are imperfect, our shoes start to lose their shine. Maybe at times our black shoes start to look more brown and we might even be mistaken for a brown shoe. Has anyone ever acted surprised to find out you’re a Christian? Have you ever regretted some behavior or activities that you took part in and wish you had not? I think all of us have, and will again. The old saying, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” is very applicable.

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:10

What does the red helmet have to do with the story? Dean explained that the red helmet had nothing to do with the story, but was simply on his head as he was kayaking down the Merced River enjoying his retirement. I have work for, under, and with many people in my life, but without a doubt Dean Bernachi was one of my favorites. As much as some of us enjoy retirement, or look forward to it, I realized that the task of the black shoes never really leaves us, until we meet with the individual who gave us our orders.

Here’s to black shoes and red helmets when we really get to enjoy a long retirement!

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