How would you answer the question: Why is there a rainbow? Find out how Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley responded to such an inquiry.
Did you see enough rain fall last week?
While there was a fair amount of lightning during the week, I wound up going out in an attempt to photograph bolts only once, and it was a wasted venture since it started raining before I could get a good read on where to shoot.
As it was, the consolation prize for several days of rain came Thursday evening just before sunset.
I’d been keeping an eye on the western sky in anticipation of a colorful sunset as it appeared there was a break in the clouds that might allow the sun to peak through. As it turned out, I was looking in the wrong direction. Glancing out my kitchen window to the east I was treated to a sight I rarely see – a rainbow.
But this was not just any rainbow. It was one of the brightest rainbows I think I’ve ever seen. It arched across the sky, accompanied by a fainter twin.
After pointing the spectacle out to my wife, Nancy, and daughter, Anna, I grabbed my camera bag, popped lenses onto my trusty, old Pentax camera bodies and scampered outside.
I found myself with two options. (A) Jump in the car and try to get somewhere far more scenic to photograph the rainbow than from in front of my house. (B) Make the most of the opportunity by shooting near my home.
Because Option A is a gamble – more than once I’ve seen bright rainbows fade away in little more than a heartbeat while driving somewhere picturesque – I decided to stay close to home.
I tried to get away from power lines as best I could and fire away with trees in the foreground. But after a bit, with the rainbow still shining brightly, I decided to relocate to Broadway where I found a number of people just standing and enjoying the sight.
As I took more photos, I found myself surrounded by three teen-age girls who were pausing to take in the streaks of color in the sky.
Suddenly, one of the girls asked, “Why is there a rainbow?”
I paused from taking photos to glance in the young woman’s direction.
“Seriously?” I asked myself in silence. “Who doesn’t know what causes a rainbow?”
As the father of a teen-ager, I understand that sarcasm is frequently a second language. Consequently, I wanted to make sure this girl was asking a legitimate question, instead of making a smart-alecky inquiry that was intended to entertain her cronies.
But as I looked at the young stranger’s face, I did not detect a hint of satire, just pure curiosity as she repeated her question, “Why is there a rainbow?”
Since no one around us either heard her question, or cared to respond to the query I felt compelled to do so. But I was conflicted regarding how to answer her question.
Should I give her a sound, scientific answer regarding what makes a rainbow shine? Or should I take a more theological approach and explain what a rainbow represents to every person of faith?
Time seemed to slow as I weighed my options and then formulated a response that would be both short and simple.
“Rainbows happen when sunlight hits raindrops at a low enough angle,” I remarked, looking in her direction.
Our eyes met as I provided the answer. Silence followed.
While she didn’t say “thanks,” neither did she chirp, “Shut up old man! Nobody was talking to you!”
But after the encounter I found myself wishing I’d used the opportunity to tell her that a rainbow represents a promise kept by her Creator. Instead of silence, maybe that answer would have opened the door to a life-altering conversation.