For the past two days we had a small and gentle snow that fell to the ground and blanketed our brown earth with a fresh coat of white. Besides needing the moisture, it was a relief to look outside and see the drab brown grass and trees transformed into the beauty of a soft winter wonderland…new and sparkling white.
Andrea is still here with us as she enjoys the last day or two of her Christmas break. Along with her, we have her adorable dog – Darcy. Darcy is so small compared to our huge Great Dane, Jackson. The difference in their sizes was very evident yesterday as I looked down at their footprints in the snow. I had no trouble being able to distinguish which print was Jackson’s and which was Darcy’s. The impressions that each dog made in the snow was undeniable…big for Jackson and small for Darcy.
I’ve been thinking about footprints and pondering the significance of those footprints that we cannot see…the footprints that we leave in the lives of people that cross our paths. I have specifically been thinking of Aaron – of some of the people that have left a footprint in his life and therefore have impacted mine. The footprints don’t have to be huge or to be many in order to leave an impact.
Years ago we had a dinner after the morning service at our church. By this time, Aaron was in his teens and his differences were very pronounced. Most of his peers did not know what to do with Aaron…how to talk to him or relate to him. They weren’t unkind but most simply handled the situation of Aaron by ignoring him, or by speaking briefly and then walking uncomfortably away from this person who was so unusual. As I went through the serving line and filled my plate, I looked around for Aaron in order to direct him to the table where we would be sitting. But there was no Aaron to be found as my eyes scanned the room.
Then I saw him sitting at a table full of teenaged boys. I wondered if Aaron had just seated himself there and my heart fell as I feared that he might be ignored. It was then that Gary told me that one of the young men at that table, Tyler Ellis, had asked Aaron if he wanted to sit with them. I was shocked…and I was also so very happy. What to Tyler probably seemed like a very small thing to do was instead a huge blessing to Gary and me. That incident left a footprint in my heart that remains today…a footprint of kindness that still warms me and makes me smile.
I have another footprint involving a young man that had his own struggles yet had a heart of gold. Paul Gilbow came over to our house to swim with Aaron. What was routine for our other children was rare for Aaron…to have someone purposely come over to swim with him and spend time with him. I remember the joy that filled my heart as I looked out the window and watched Paul and Aaron swim. Paul was unaffected by Aaron’s unusual behaviors or speech or appearance. He gave Aaron a day of normalcy and fun, and he gave me a footprint in my life that will stay forever. Paul has left this earth but his sweet footprint remains with me.
We each leave footprints in the lives of others. Some of those prints are with intent as we purposely reach out to touch others and to help them along the way…or sadly as we may reach out to inflict verbal pain or to ignore those that we dislike. Other prints we may never see or realize as we affect people in ways of which we are unaware. I often wonder that if the footprints of our attitudes and our deeds were visible, like Jackson’s and Darcy’s, then what would mine look like? When I leave a footprint in some one’s life, what kind will it be? Will someone look at the footprints in their life and recognize mine? And if they do, will it be because of a smile or an act of love and caring? Or will they see anger or frustration or neglect?
I want this New Year to be a year of making the right kinds of footprints in the lives of others…and to remember that even the very smallest of prints can leave a lifelong, profound effect on those whose lives I somehow touch.