It was a very cold winters night with very little happening, a perfect opportunity to hide away and keep warm.
Let me put this in context. The year is 1967; the place is inner city Liverpool, England. I was a young police officer walking the beat on the night shift. A colleague and I had just left the police station after our meal break at around 3.30 am. We walked back to our individual beats past partly demolished buildings; no safety barriers in those days, with the smell of burnt wood and rubbish hanging in the air. My mate suggested that this was the perfect night for some serious sleeping. He knew the very place. So we quickly walked to his beat, through a few back alleys to a newly built tower block. A number of these had been built to house residents who had been re – housed through a slum clearance program initiated by the government of the day.
We entered through the front entrance; the warmth inside was most welcoming; we took the elevator to the 12th floor. Then the stairs to the next floor, which housed the service room for the elevator and power systems for the building. No sooner had we arrived, when my colleague produced a key from his pocket and opened the door. Switching on the light I was pleasantly surprised to find a room which had two comfy arm chairs along with tea making facilities. Settling ourselves down, sleep quickly paid a visit; how long we slept I am not sure! But, if it was not for the sound of the elevator machinery, we would have slept longer. Checking our watches, it was 6.00 am. We had to be back at the station for 6.45am. Quick as we could, we got back to the ground floor. Opening the front doors of the Tower block we were greeted by a most unwelcome sight. It was snowing, and from the tower block across the street, as far as the eye could see, it was virgin snow on which no one had walked. We had no other choice; walking through the snow we left our tell-tale footprints from the tower block. There was no other way. We decided we would go through partly demolished buildings to make it look like the footprints were not ours. Arriving back at the station we had some explaining to do, especially around not answering our radios, which hardly ever worked anyway.
I have often thought of this experience when I see footprints, for in many ways you and I always leave our footprints. I am not just talking of footprints in the snow or leaving muddy footprints when we don’t wipe our muddy shoes. I am talking about what we leave in our many interactions with one another.
I want to remind you that we are all interconnected within the great web of life. If you have entered a room, which has recently been vacated, you may feel the energy left by the previous occupants; they may even have left an aroma.
Believe it or not, we humans do give off an energy, which others sense very quickly. When we are in the presence of someone who is extremely negative, angry and complaining their negative energy will affect us. But, then when we are in the presence of happy, energetic and positive people their energy splashes over us, we feel refreshed like a spring shower, leaving us feeling encouraged and positively alive. These are the footprints we leave behind…
If we see ourselves as individuals separate from each other what I am saying will not mean much.
However, once we see ourselves as interconnected within the great web of life’s belonging, we will appreciate and be mindful how our life and presence affects others and how they in turn touch our life.
No person is an island. We truly do need one another, yet often we forget this and attempt to live self-sufficient lives. No one has all the answers, skills, talents, abilities and graces. I keep coming back to that Leonard Cohen song Anthem, were the chorus is:
Ring the bells, that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
No one is perfect; it’s through our imperfections, our cracks and flows, that offer an opportunity for the beauty and light of another to get through to touch us with love. Now that’s the kind of footprint which will not disappear when the snow melts, but will remain forever, within the memory banks of our heart.
I leave you with these words from Rabbi Lawrence Kushner:
Some seem to be born with a nearly completed puzzle.
And so it goes.
Souls going this way and that
Trying to assemble the myriad parts.
But know this. No one has within themselves
All the pieces to their puzzle
Like before the days when they used to seal
Jigsaw puzzles in cellophane. Insuring that
All the pieces were there.
Everyone carries with them at least one and probably
Many pieces to someone else’s puzzle.
Sometimes they know it.
Sometimes they don’t.
And when you present your piece
Which is worthless to you,
To another, whether you know it or not,
Whether they know it or not,
You are a messenger from the Most High.
In Honey from the Rock.
Meanwhile Peace in refreshing footprints….