“Leave No Trace”

Maybe I read too much – I’m not sure. I can’t even recall what publication I was reading, but I came across that idea that a mother had instilled in her children: “Leave No Trace Dating.” As someone who has served as a cub scout den leader for the past three years, I am quite familiar with the concepts of the BSA’s Leave No Trace Frontcountry Guidelines.

In short, the idea is that the bare minimum of the standard is that you leave an outdoor area as good as you found it. Another concept is improving the natural resources and areas around you. For the young boys, it could be collecting trash around a trail or campsite, even if they weren’t the ones who left it behind. Older boys are often encouraged to participate in conservation projects.

And this is where I throw in an off-the-wall thought about how much I love my brain. It is so adept at taking ideas and twisting them inside-out, backwards, and into unnamed contortions, that I rarely see life anywhere at all like most of the people around me.

So as I was reading this article and thinking about what it means to me, my thoughts went in two directions at once.


 The Negative Direction

I still have not arrived at the ability to be at peace with how disconnected I feel from the people around me. I have a friend who believes that my lack of a family support system is the main culprit. She may be right. Even so, the feeling of having no truly close ties to anyone other than my mom and my fiance makes for an austere existence.

The latest “conclusion” I have jumped to is that, should I pass away in my sleep on any given night, a week later I would only be missed my my mom and my fiance. (You, dear reader, wouldn’t even know for a couple of weeks!) Being who I am, I then “realized” that my mom only has a few years left in her, and my fiance would pick up the pieces and move on. Accurate or not, I definitely wonder about my existence on this planet for the last 40+ years!

Of course, this is true for most humans, so I have to wonder what my real motives are for wanting to leave a “mark” on the world. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that my purpose here isn’t for what I can get – it’s for what I can give.


The Positive Direction

Which brings us to the positive application of the Boy Scout’s Leave No Trace principle. We come into contact with people pretty much everyday, no matter how single or isolated we think we are. We act, interact, and react. We influence those around us, and they influence us.

That leads to tons of questions that I can reflect on at the end of each day:

  • How did I practice “Leave No Trace” today? Did I consciously try to leave each person I met as good or better than they were before? What about when I was driving?
  • How did I support someone today? Did I see an opportunity to help “clean up a mess,” even if I didn’t leave it behind? Did my presence make life better for someone today?
  • Did I use respect in all of my interactions? Did I feel respect in my heart for each person? How do I value the people that I have inteactions with – do I see them as equally valuable with each other? Do I see them as equally as valuable as me?

The implications of “Leave No Trace” in daily person-to-person contact is staggering, and ironic. The truth is, but striving to “Leave No Trace” will actually leave big traces behind – traces of building self-worth and self-concept, traces of reminding another person that he or she is worth being loved, traces of making people better. That’s a valuable mark to leave on the world.