I spent some time with a branch of my father’s family this weekend. We spent much conversation “catching up”, but also discussing some of the dynamics of the three topics of the post title. I don’t think one of the things discussed was uncomplicated. There are so many shadings in human relationships, and rarely are our actions or those of others completely clear and simple… or maybe I should say few are “stand alone”.
For the past few years I have had this stream of thought about how much our lives influence others. Sometimes that influence is so slight and transitory that it is almost invisible, but certain circumstances highlight it. We are presently in the throes of summer Midwest heat, but much of this thought process took form in depth of winter; by happenstance when traveling in the passenger seat, looking through the window and observing tracks left in the snow. Those tracks left a story that I, in my fast moving vehicle, could read in an instant ….the meandering of a pet dog, the trail of someone checking their mailbox, the startled jump and changed direction of a deer. All were pieces of a story that unfolded in impressions upon the snowy white pages of the landscape. Leaving their marks upon the places they had tread, one could piece together whether they had hurried or whether they had followed their habitual trail, whether they belonged there or had wandered warily within boundaries designed to curtail them.
The thought, then, was of how often we tread within the realm of another’s life, for however long or brief a time; sometimes with enough repetitions and weight to wear a trail, but more often thoughtlessly rambling through. We are unaware, except by brief accident of circumstance, that our mark was left within time upon a persons experience, pressed in the earthen face of their lives. It made me think of how much more careful we might be with each other if our eyes could spiritually see our impact.
For good or for harm, but certainly for something. We often matter in ways we cannot fathom.
The conversations reminded me of this, and of truths which remain whether we recognize or live by them or not. we can read research or articles that assure us that our children do fine without us, or that we do fine without the nurture or care of our parents, or a relationship, over, is forgotten and left behind. We carry our stories of life, and they are somehow or other written into the terrain of our lives. As the mark of a long ago tree or ancient edifice might be seen long after its physical existence is erased in every other way. Some of us understand these truths, despite the assurances otherwise…. and some of us trip upon them disconcertingly, as we move on in life.
We carry the imprint of our family, of our friends, and even of strangers that cross our paths…. and they also carry those we have made. And are making.