My inner critic, never at a loss for words, says “leave the place better than you found it.” Where she gets her information, and when she chooses to spring it on me is a mystery, but I listen up because sometimes she is simply right.
The impetus to leave a place better than I found it would relate to cabin rentals, campsites and other places of temporary refuge. As it relates to backpacking in the wilderness or camping Anywhere, USA, it is always the goal to leave no trace. Not everyone operates by this standard, sadly, but I do my part to pick up after myself (and often those that came before me) so the deer, bunnies, and timber tigers don’t have to organize to construct walls to keep us out.
Leave It Better Than You Found It
How can I begin to think about this concept from my birth to my death – leave “the place” better than I found it? I have lived in just a couple of different places in my lifetime: Los Angeles, California, and Bend, Oregon, so far. I have visited lots of places around the world. It has been my custom to tidy up before I leave. I pick up trash, do what I can to help, and hopefully do some acts of kindness before I depart. I always shut off the lights.
With respects to leaving my life at some unknown future time, I would like to carry on with this well-stated tradition. I would like to clean up on my way out. I like the idea of “leave no trace”—sweeping the place clean so no one can tell I was there. I would like to mind my trace by leaving a good impression on the hearts of my loved ones and people I have known along the way. Perhaps it will be the smell of me left over from a hug as sometimes happens when cheeks brush against each other in an embrace.
I would like to mind my trace by leaving a good impression on the hearts of my loved ones and people I have known along the way.
When I was taught to vacuum, I was instructed to sweep the machine from the furthest point of a room working my way backward towards the door. No prints should be visible in the carpet or flooring. This is how I would like to go. I want to leave the brush of love and God’s greatness in my life as the brush strokes on a carpet freshly swept. There will be no empty La Croix can, Chomps meat stick wrapper, or wax papers from saltwater taffy. “Spit spot,” Mary Poppins would say.
What—and How Much—Will You Be Leaving Behind?
I reckon I will live a few years still, Lord willing. I look around my place and see nothing but heavy trace everywhere. There are plants galore, furniture, dishes, clothing, appliances, a faithful Labrador Retriever and a really great husband. I cannot see it from where I sit, but I know the garage houses a car I love and a small collection of boxes that contain a lifetime of cards, letters and journals.
What is to become of these? The dog is in her sunset years and every day is a gift with her. The really great husband is in God’s hands where I put him long ago and only God knows the number of his days. What about all of the stuff? What of the books, artwork, china, jewelry, and loads of personal effects that likely no one wants? Why hold onto all of these items? What can I do with it other than collect it together and call it “my life?”
At the turn of a new year, I set to ponder my goals. What did I do with an entire year past and what can I hope to accomplish in the year ahead? If I do not set some kind of intention for the future, not much will change. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Gone are my days of planning career goals. Most of my personal goals are met. I have lost the weight, quit most of my bad behavior and am in a new period of my life. Sure, it takes time and effort to maintain my winnings and mind the gates of my schedule and mouth lest other rascally behaviors gain access to my life. “Exercise and eat right,” I remind myself. “If it tastes good, spit it out” Jack LaLanne advised. Ha! When a speaker has covered their material and is winding down their talk they say, “I will close with this.” What will be my closing?
I still have some tricks up my sleeve. I want to use my time to weave love and encouragement into the lives of those God allows me to come alongside. Time takes time and I have it to give. With the change leftover in my pocket I will spend my time with purpose. I will mind my trace and begin the long journey to the exit, sweeping the place clean as I go.
I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder moving across the prairie with her family. Pa had the fiddle, that’s for sure, and Ma had the porcelain figure that sat up on a shelf. Otherwise, the family travelled light. They did not haul off garbage dumpsters of collected unwanted stuff each time they moved and they surely did not hire Mayflower Movers.
This is my goal as I go forward: I want to mind my trace by making an impact on people’s hearts through time spent together and gifts of memories and words that will outlast me, and I want to reduce my footprint on planet Earth. I will winnow down my treasures to a precious few, perhaps carry them in a little bag as mementos of God’s goodness, kindness, grace and mercy like Much Afraid in Hind’s Feet for High Places.
God has been faithfully present to me. This is what I want to keep, ponder in my heart. May He grant me wisdom to know how to handle all of the good gifts He has provided, and when it is time, help me turn off the light and close the door.
Leaving the world better than you found it can sometimes involve uncomfortable, necessary work and hard conversations. Here’s one way you can help: Racism—How Can We Help Fight It? with Allison McCormick – 206