The Incredible Story of an Unimpressive Pen
The next time you're signing your name at the DMV or another U.S. Government office, you probably won't notice the black pen in your hand. It, after all, is exactly like the dozens of other black pens you've used in post offices, courthouses, and other buildings throughout your adult life. You certainly won't think there's much of a story behind the modest implement that, likely as not, is chained to the well-worn desk you've been waiting to stand at.
But like everything, those pens have a story. For over 40 years, those Skilcraft pens have been assembled by (blind) factory workers in Wisconsin and North Carolina. They must meet rigorous government specifications: to write continuously for a mile, and within temperature swings from 40 below zero to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The original design—brass ink tube, plastic barrel not shorter than 4 5/8 inches, ball of 94 percent tungsten carbide and 6 percent cobalt—has changed little over the decades. It costs less than 60 cents. The standard length of the pen has helped lost Navy pilots navigate by map. Stories say that the pen can be used as a two-inch bomb fuse, or for emergency tracheotomies. It can write upside down.
The pen has a rich, fascinating history, woven together with war, peace, postage, bureaucrats, spies, work, and play. And you'd never know it to look at it.
Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Jesus Christ; Cross—As Christ hung on the cross he was not impressive, but he was still the eternal Son of God. (2) Dignity; Human worth—Some of us, or some people that you know, may not seem impressive, and yet they bear the image of God.
Paul Pastor, Portland, Oregon; source: Ylan Q. Mui, "Low-Tech Skilcraft Pens Endure In A High-Tech World," The Washington Post (4-18-10)