Like cats, we all leave stuff behind.
On Christmas afternoon, our neighbors popped over with a delicious chocolate cake to share with us. They were fronted by their two delightfully adorable kids, who still had the magical glassy eyes of Christmas spreading joy to everyone they met. As we chatted at the doorway before they left, I watched the youngest, a round-faced, puffy-cheeked, smiling miracle of Christmas, prance around with sheer delight at everything and anything said by anyone. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her as she had the cheeks you just wanted to squeeze. I watched the exuberant child as she walked over to our cat, which was resting in her usual spot on the front porch. The child reached out with her chubby hands and started petting the self-anointed princess of felines. The cat tolerated her well enough and the child’s hands remained all over the cat for about a minute until the child pulled back and looked closely at her fingertips. She had something strange on her fingers. Cat fur. Strands of the same stuff we find all over the house. She couldn’t quite understand how it got there, and she rubbed her fingertips with her other hand until she now had the cat fur on both. The child was changed in an unexpected way. The cat did nothing but be itself, its very lazy self, and yet it still left something behind for the child to marvel and ponder about.
This whole delightfully simple and silly episode got me thinking. This is what happens in real life. We all leave stuff behind whether we intend to or not. We all leave our influences, good or bad, wrong or right, wonderful or annoying. And they stick on others like lint on a warm sock, or fur on a baby’s hand.
We don’t always realize the impact that one life has. Many times we walk away from a situation or a person and we have no idea that we have their cat hair all over us. We think we have made a clean break and have turned the page, but we haven’t. We never leave a station in life unaffected, whether we like to admit it or not.
Our influence may not be actual hair which catches a ride on a sweater like good ‘ole Fluff and Stuff is famous for, but we are never alone, and we are never unaffected.
If it’s true that we each impact the world whether we intend to or not, then the question remaining is what is it that we want to leave behind? Do we want to be like my cat and leave behind an annoying trail of fur which needs to be washed and removed? Or do we want to leave behind something which can make the world a little better? It might be one of a thousand things. It could be an hour spent with someone who needs some help. It might be a thoughtful visit to the hospital. It might be leaving behind a little of your money to help someone who needs it a little more than we do. It might be an encouraging word, an invitation, a willingness to talk, a willingness to slow down and listen.
None of us are untouched by others, and neither should any of us want to be free from influencing others. At this charitable time of the year, I wonder how I can leave a little bit more of myself behind. It’s something to ponder.
And it’s a holiday lesson I learned from a little girl and our cat. If we are going to leave things behind, it might as well be more useful than fur balls. Let’s all see if we can do something positive, because if we don’t, we will leave behind the opposite of that.