When I was in college I worked at a camp with a policy for the outdoors, “leave no trace.” It was the idea that when you left a camping area the only thing that you would leave behind were footprints. It became a kind of game for me when combined with my mother’s training to “leave it better than you found it.”
While this view is very good for being outdoors, it is not the right perspective for life. As I watch my son leave for college, I am reminded that he will be leaning on the training his father and I gave him. The lessons, examples, and reminders we have shared over the past eighteen years will be our legacy.
During the ten years I taught, I hope I left the Father’s imprint on my students, even more than I hope they remember the grammar lessons. I think of the times when I saw a student struggling with a concept and I helped them figure it out. I pray that if they remember that moment, that they will remember more that they were important and valued.
Now, years later, I look back at the places my feet have been and hope that the imprint I left there was of mercy and grace, kindness and tenderness. Did the students I had, the people I worked with or interacted with each day, see Jesus in me? Did they see an impatient person, who wouldn’t make eye contact? If today were my last day here on earth, what would be my legacy?
I know that my work desk would be cleared of things and prepared for the next person to sit down. My family may mourn my loss and tell stories of me. After time had passed, what would be remembered? Will those I left behind know how precious they were to me? Would they know I cherished their time? Would they know they were valued, loved, and priceless- not just to me, but to God Himself?
I look at the people I pass on the sidewalks in town and the roads out in the country and I wonder, when it’s all said and done, will they know they were loved? Will they know that the mistakes they made did not mean they were a mistake? Will they know how their laughter filled the room, or their hug made the pain go away? Will they know talking with them each day was a special part of someone’s routine?
What we leave behind should not be a focus of stuff, things to pass on, money to inherit. It will be the words we said (and didn’t say), the time we spent together, the love that was shared, the tears and the laughter, these are the priceless treasures.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want to leave behind, O Best Beloved?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).