Have you ever wondered how many footprints have walked before you, perhaps on the very path you now walk; showing you where to place your next step?
When I was hiking back from Bloomington Lake a few weeks ago, of course the main thing I was concerned about was getting lost. It’s a well-traveled trail, however, and people are constantly going up or down. At least that day they were.
There are a few side trails that were less traveled but still presented a moment I needed to re-ground myself and figure out which path would take me back to the truck.
The main thing I noticed was the variety of footprints in the sandy ground. All on top of each other. All going different directions. All different sizes and shapes. Sole prints were so diverse and the overlapping made them even more unique.
How many shoes were imprinted in that trail? How many people had set their feet on this very path I was now following? It gave me cause to ponder on how many people I have crossed paths with, hopefully leaving a purposeful, if not positive impression on a little piece of their journey. Were my footprints worth following? Did I lead them in the right direction or was I one who possibly misled them for a time? Did I walk behind them, clipping their heels with my impatient gait or did I push my way to the front, thinking I knew the path to take better than they did? Or was I compassionate enough to walk by side-by-side with them; enjoying the moments together?
Continuing on the well-marked paths I tried to imagine the story behind some of the prints. Most of them were flip-flops. Some were an identifiable athletic shoe; others left the mark of a hiking boot. And then there were the few that left the distinct markings of a brave, bare foot that dared tempt the sharp rocks and prickly weeds that marked this particular trail.
Then I thought, with a little laugh in my head, “All these shoes. That would be an awful lot of shoes to try to walk a mile in before judging. Nearly impossible task.”
And yet here I was, taking all these faceless, nameless shoe prints and letting them all guide my feet.
I wonder if the faces or shapes or personalities of these prints in the sand were visible to me, right here, right now, would I be so quick to follow them…
…or would I be judging them before I made my choices. Choices that right now, came so easily.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them,
He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
There are no stories attached to these trails and trails full of foot prints I follow. Well, none except the ones I am making up in
my head. I am merely being led by impressions in the sand, many of which have become blurred and scuffed or buried under so many other patterns that they, themselves, have become undiscernible. There are no clues as to the other paths traveled, the storms endured or the weight of the burdens carried. I can only speculate as to what kind of impression my soles have left as I have crossed the paths of others. I hope I have left not just trudged through their trail. I hope there’s been some compassion and grace and empathy left as I’ve kicked up some sand and joined their journey for a time.
May we all leave not just sole prints but also imprints on the souls of those we cross paths with.
Photos from The Light of the World Gardens at Thanksgiving Point.