You’ve heard of Paul Revere and his famous “Midnight Ride” on the 18th of April, 1775. And why not? Paul Revere’s 20-mile trip to alert the countryside of the approaching British invasion was important. It contributed to the stunning victories of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. This despite being cut short by the British who captured him. But the real reason you’re familiar with Paul Revere is due to a great American poet. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized the journey in “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
But have you ever heard of Israel Bissell? Every American should have heard of his mad-dash mission to alert America of the British threat in Massachusetts. He covered nearly 20 times the distance as that of Paul Revere’s. Israel Bissell was a 23-year-old dispatch rider for the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. On April 19, 1775, Colonel Francis Smith marched his brigade of British regulars into Middlesex County to confiscate stockpiled weapons of the Massachusetts Militia.
That very day Israel Bissell bolted off with orders to alert the rest of the colonies that one of their own was under attack. In record time Bissell traveled more than 350 miles in five days (wearing out several horses in the process). Starting from Watertown, Massachutes, he went as far as New York City and Philadelphia. He alerted towns and hamlets along the way and delivered a written plea for help and a call to arms. He brought news that unified the northern colonies and impelled them to “get off the fence” and make the fateful decision – to fight for independence. Revere alerted Middlesex County. Bissell alerted the nation.
Yet for all his heroics, Israel Bissell was largely forgotten. Not until 1926 – the year of America’s Sesquicentennial celebration – did one historian, Abram Wakeman, take note of Bissell’s profound contribution. Few wrote much about this unsung hero since. But the fact that Israel Bissell received no recognition and praise does not diminish his achievements and contributions. Sung or unsung, Israel Bissell was a hero.
Most of us can identify with Israel Bissell. There are times when our labor goes unnoticed and unrewarded. To make things worse, we might even be subjected to having to listen to praise directed to others whose sacrifices and achievements are small in comparison.
But success is not measured by the amount of praise or recognition we receive. Success is measured in having completed our mission and done our best to contribute to the cause of freedom and the good of our country and other people. It behooves us all to settle the matter in our hearts – to seek true success, to look beyond our earthly masters to our heavenly One, and to strive to please Him. In the Scripture our Lord said, “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose your reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
Dear Father, help me this day to do my best to complete Your mission for my life. No matter if my task seems small, unnoticed, or unrewarded, help me to do my best – that I may be true to You, to others who depend on me, and to myself. Amen.