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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How are you leaving your world?


Many times over the years, I have gone to camp as a counselor, primarily with teens, but sometimes younger children.  I remember one leader I worked with who would, on the last day of camp, have everyone join in a scouting over the campground to pick up any trash that has been left on the grounds.  He used to say something that is very similar to one of my life habits:  “Let’s leave the campground in better condition than it was when we got here.”

My back, arms and knees ache today.  I have been working the last few days on my hands and knees to tile the back entryway of my house.  It is just the latest in a whole collection of improvement projects I have done on my 1880’s home.  As I was picking up the trash from the mess I had made, I thought of all the houses I have lived in down through the years and all the projects I have done on them.  It made me think of the cleanup policy we had at camp:  Leave it in better condition than it was when we got here.  I have done that with every home I had, as I enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing home improvement projects.  

But I also have tried to apply that principle to other areas of my life.  I have made conscious efforts to leave something good with every church I have pastored or attended - by doing things that would help make it better.  I have tried to have the same kind of impact in other areas through things such as youth programs I have helped with, boards I have served on, service clubs I have been part of, classes I have taught and the time I have spent trying to help and encourage others.  Even my divorce devotional books carry that same aim…to try to help make things better for somebody than they would have been without my effort.  

I think it is a pretty good question to ask oneself in life:  how am I leaving my part of the world in better shape than it was when I got here?  Oh, I don’t know that I can change the entire world…though it could happen, I suppose.  And I don’t believe that my influence has always had positive results; I have made my share of mistakes along the way.  Like anybody, there are plenty of areas where I feel that I made more of a mess of things than an improvement.  But that doesn’t change the fact that my intent and my efforts have been to try to make my corner of the world a little better place.  

I don’t suppose most people would even notice the changes that I made.  For example, the tile in the back hall covers an old flooring that was desperately in need of replacing, but nobody who walks in there now will realize that.  Or the shutoff valves at every sink and toilet will simply be taken for granted by whoever works on any of them after I have left, but whether they realize it or not, they won’t have to deal with the hassles that I have had to in my repairs.

I have known some people in life whose philosophy seems to be just the opposite.  Everytime they come around, I know that there is going to be a mess left behind to clean up.  Sometimes it is because they leave remnants of their presence in the form of trash or damaged goods.  Sometimes, though, it is because they leave behind bruised people and hurt feelings.  Sometimes they are people who are so self-centered that they are totally oblivious to their impact on anybody or anything other than themselves.  Sadly, they are actually oblivious to their impact on themselves, too, because they don’t seem to realize what kind of inconsiderate or self-centered people they have become.  

Each day, I believe, we have an opportunity to make something better.  

Every day, I believe, we have an opportunity to make someone else’s life just a little bit brighter.   

Every day, we have an opportunity to grow into better people because we do those things.  

I invite you to watch for your opportunities day by day, and join me in trying to leave the world and people’s lives at least a little bit than before we came along.  People you know will be glad you did.

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