According to Wikipedia, a vehicle assembly plant in Russia encloses nearly 230 acres under roof and claims the title of the world’s largest building. As enormous as this is, however, it is not the biggest structure made by living organisms. That honor is held by the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.
This incredible formation covers approximately 133,000 square miles and can be seen from outer space. It provides homes and food for thousands of species of animals including fish, birds, crustaceans, whales, dolphins, snakes, turtles, and more and is a true wonder of the natural world.
It’s a bit ironic, however, that this enormous structure, like all coral reefs, is built by some of the smallest creatures on the planet. Billions of tiny coral polyps grow on top of what their ancestors laid down in past generations and gradually expand it each year. Each individual animal is about a half-inch in diameter and secretes a hard limestone skeleton to protect its soft body from predators. Under current conditions, the average reef increases its diameter by about .5 to 1 inch per year and its height by up to 10 inches.
Aside from being amazingly beautiful and life-giving, the world’s coral reefs can teach us about our own existence. Each of us was born into a family, community, nation, and world. As such, we have the benefit of building on the work of past generations. Because our ancestors used their resources and time wisely, they have built physical structures such as buildings and roads, but also political, social, and economic structures to support and enable them and their descendants to thrive.
As each of us burst on the scene, we are blessed to have their legacy to build upon. Because of their sacrifices and hard work, we don’t have to reinvent and reconstruct all that is necessary for civilization. Of course, not all that has been built is beneficial and we have to be careful not to perpetuate immoral parts of the human reef such as slavery, totalitarianism, oppression, etc. But thankfully, much of the legacy left to us provides a useful foundation.
Like billions of coral polyps, each of us has an opportunity to develop our own part of the human reef and provide a good sturdy structure for those who follow us. In the process, we not only benefit other human beings, but also the many animals and plants with which we share this earth.
During a visit with a lady who knew my grandfather Beecher, she related how he gave her a little bag of roasted peanuts every time she visited his fruit stand. She shared about how special it made her feel and how great those snacks tasted. She found out later that he gave those to all the children that visited his store and she told me, “He wasn’t a tall man, but he was a big man.”
This is but one story I’ve heard over the years about my grandparents on both sides. I’m thankful for the legacies they’ve left behind for they are something that my parents were able to build upon and hopefully something that my generation can add to as well.
The study of genealogy helps us dig down into our history and discover the unique individuals, personal sacrifices, and special contributions each of them have made to our families and our world. Even though they might not have built anything enormous individually, together they’ve provided families, communities, and a country that benefits many.
So the question for us is how can we best build on what others have done? How can we improve what has come down to us and expand it for future generations, should the Lord tarry? God has called us to use whatever resources he’s entrusted to us to improve and better our world for his glory and others’ good. As we ponder the collective work of the thousands of generations of coral and humans, I pray that we will seek and fulfill God’s will for us. Blessed building, George