Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Footprints

I planned to write a blog at least once a week and then I went back to work. What a whirlwind that has been! I was given six weeks of leave, but felt fine after four weeks and returned to work then. While I felt fine, I did tire more easily and found myself going to bed early. Then the days got back to normal and I just ran out of time to blog. But I am back.

It has been six full weeks now since my surgery and I feel great. I do not feel like I ever had surgery. I said to a physician in the hall yesterday that it just didn't seem right that it was so easy. She said, "you didn't suffer enough." That's right. I thought I would have suffered at least little. Don't get me wrong, I am happy and grateful that it was so effortless.

On my last day at the beach before I returned to work, I got up early to take one last walk on the beach. If you get out early enough, you feel you have the whole world to yourself. The Gulf is usually calm with the waves lapping in a slow steady rhythm. The water is a beautiful shade of green that is only seen in nature. Since I was nearing the end of my official recovery period, I was feeling particularly philosophical.

I am strong now, so it was a nice long walk. I thought about the experience I had just been through and how it had impacted me. I felt very joyful having finally done something I had wanted to do for so long.

When I turned to head back, I could clearly see my own footprints in the sand. I stopped to watch the inevitable process I knew was coming. My recent steps were distinct. When the first wave hit, I could still see them clearly, but they were fading. The next wave left them faintly visible. By the time the third wave washed over my footprints, they were erased from all memory.

As I walked toward home, I thought about the impressions we make in life. We have an opportunity to make a clear and distinct imprint on the people we come in direct contact with - our siblings, friends, neighbors, co-workers. The next generation of relationships is like my footprints after the first wave - we make an impression but it is not as deep. By the time we are three degrees removed, we are a faded memory at best.

The first time I saw the Tibetan Buddhist monks painstakingly make an intricate colored sand mandala only to watch them sweep it into an urn and pour it into a flowing stream, I did not understand their lesson of impermanence. My walk on the beach that last day reminded me of that lesson.

We do not live forever. So the mark we leave is not in things, but rather in the deeds we do and the lives we touch. And for most of us even our best will be unknown or unseen in three generations removed. So maybe our intention should be to do the best we can anyway with those we touch directly. Maybe they will then "pay it forward" with kind words and deeds to those they touch. We can start a wave of words and deeds that will ripple far beyond our touch. Maybe then our footprints will make a deeper and longer imprint in the world.

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