Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

My daughter recently went on a camping trip in Alaska. The tour group she traveled with was very careful not to tamper with nature or otherwise leave behind any evidence of their time in the wilderness (think no litter, campfire residue, etc.). They believed in “leave no trace” camping, a movement whose motto is “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.”

That motto made me think about how we should approach our own life journeys. As we go through life, our goal should be to not to leave behind garbage (painful memories for others, hurt feelings, stress). Instead, we are called to leave a gentle footprint. Maybe even something better. Perhaps a field of daisies.

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time asking that all-important question: Why am I here? We are focused on our careers, dealing with our families and trying to manage the mundane aspects of life. But every so often, something happens that jolts us out of our complacency. Perhaps it is a death in the family. Or the loss of a job. Or the end of a relationship. And then we are faced with that timeless question – What is my purpose on this earth? Why am I here?

I can’t give you your answer to that question. That answer is uniquely different for each one of us. However, I can tell you that it must involve leaving a positive footprint. That means that each of us should be leaving the earth better than when we arrived. And we should be making the lives of those we come in contact with better as well.

What if we framed all our decisions in this context? What if every time we had choice to make, either big or small, we asked the question, “How will this affect my ultimate footprint on this earth?” Some of our decisions might stay the same, but I think some would be very different. We probably would do a whole lot more recycling and less criticizing. We might focus less on correcting our children and more on making them feel loved and admired. We might give more thought as to how our little, unkind, off-the-cuff comments can have a lasting effect on another human being.

Funerals are very telling on this point. Everyone cries at a funeral, but I find it is for different reasons. At some funerals, people cry because they will miss the person who died and wish they had more time to spend with that person. But there are other funerals where everyone cries because the person who died left “garbage” behind. During their lifetime they created conflict and stress, and now they are gone. So the apologies that they needed to say will never be said. And their unkind words and actions are now the permanent memories of those who remain. And that is their footprint on this earth. Forever.

None of us knows which will be our last day on earth. We each have an undetermined amount of time on this planet, and we have a limitless number of choices as to what we do with that time. Ultimately, we each bear final responsibility as to the choices we make and how we spend our time on this earth. And it is every person’s choice as to whether to leave behind garbage, barely a footprint, or a field of flowers.

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