Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Impression Will You Make?

Have you ever heard the saying, "Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints"? If you are like me, and you are fascinated with travelling and different cultures, then you are probably very familiar with it. When I was young, I used to collect all sorts of what I would call "souvenirs" from different places I've visited (mostly within my own country). My sisters and I loved to find the prettiest rocks and little shells from beaches and bring them home as if they were treasures from our latest adventure. We would display them for a time and then sooner or later forget about them and they would end up in a box. Actually, I bet I could dig up a container containing those exact priceless artifacts somewhere in my house. Of course, I'm 25 now and probably haven't the slightest clue as to where we came across half of them. Our favourite beach, perhaps? Could they be from the time our family took a trip out to the east coast of Canada? I couldn't tell you. I suspect a few of them came from someones driveway. Nonetheless, they remain in our own personal museum warehouses which currently double as our closets.

I haven't been on too many expeditions, lately. I sort of consider myself as having just gotten started with the whole trekking-around-the-globe thing, looking for adventures to satisfy my wanderlust. If I could have my way, I'd win the lottery - that is, if I played it - pay off my school loans and spend the rest of it exploring God's marvelous planet! There is so much of it to see - so much to enjoy - and I've only just opened the first page, only just had a taste of it!

When I went to Peru back in 2010, it was the first and only off-continent trip that I have ever done. It was my first trip since graduating from university and also my first trip ever experiencing a culture significantly different than my own. I only speak English - a depressing fact sometimes considering I live in a bilingual (French-English speaking) city. I have grown up with the comforts that a modest household in a North American country can provide. I could go so far as to say that I live with a lot less than many people in my community, but if truth be told, I would consider myself well-off, blessed, not-in-want...whatever you would like to call it. My trip to Peru opened my eyes to a whole new world, a world where the scenes of well-known child sponsorship programs become a reality, where you can see the direct effects that poor government, lack of education and sanitation have.

Now how does this relate to my first question, you might ask? It does, trust me. I wanted to create a space where I could talk about my interest in travelling, but also about what this famous quotation means to me and how it relates not only to my random (and possibly few) travelling adventures, but also to my everyday life. When we take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints, this suggests that we go about without disturbing the natural way things work, as if we were never there and the only proof of our existence in that place is a thin piece of light-sensitive material designed to capture only a moment of that time. Don't get me wrong, I agree with this method. It would be a shame if every time we visited an historical building we had to chip off a piece for our personal archives until there was nothing left. No, I follow this method as a tourist for sure. I love scrapbooking and I've got hundreds of photos as my only souvenirs. The invention of the camera is a beautiful thing.

But let's consider this quotation differently. When you walk in the sand or in the snow, or basically on anything softer than hardened concrete, you cannot help but leave a footprint for however long it may last. The weight of who we are effects the world around us, and I would like to believe that we should leave more than just footprints wherever we go...or that the footprints end up being more than just that. Travelling puts you into contact with many people, friends and strangers alike. And that fact doesn't apply to only travelling. Each and every day we have to consider what impression we are leaving.

I am a Christian. I was read the stories of the Bible at a young age and have grown up hearing of people who have left lasting impressions, lasting footprints on the history of the earth. And I believe each of these stories are undoubtedly true. David, a young shepherd boy who became king of a nation because of his obedience and trust in God. Moses, once a child of a persecuted people, grew up to lead those people to freedom. And, of course, Jesus, raised as the son of a carpenter, but was also the Son of God and the fulfillment of God's promise to restore the entire creation from the clutches of sin and death. It was Jesus who told us, His people, to walk in His footsteps, to leave lasting impressions on the earth - footprints that lead others to Him and the life that they would have in Him. A life loving a God who loves us back, so much that he would allow his only Son to be sacrificed to save us from evil despite how many times we disobeyed and turned our attention away from Him. What greater love is there than that!

When I went to Peru, it was more than just a chance to see a bit of South America. I was struck by the nature of the people who lived there. I was touched by the openness with which my group was received and with the connection that we shared with the church we were visiting and the children we were working with. I honestly came back with so much more than just photographs after that trip. And I would like to believe that we left more than just footprints in that coastal desert - that we left an impression of Christ in hearts of those we built relationships with. I think this should translate to our everyday lives and that's why I titled my blog "More Than Just Footprints."

...It's what I hope I'm leaving wherever I go.