As a boy scout, camping trips were a monthly occurrence. Whether in the dead of winter or the blazing heat of summer our leaders religiously found the sites and planned the weekend retreats.
Sometimes we were driven to the sites, sometimes we packed in; Sometimes we slept in a snow caves and other times we slept out under the stars, but no matter how different the activities were, there were always those things that seemed to be constants.
For example, no matter when or where, you could pretty much bank on anything the scouts cooked to test the most stalwart of constitutions, where the leaders had the uncanny ability to make things like tin foil dinners taste and look like fine dining. Every campout also came with a full on snipe hunt for those new to the troop, and a reminder about the importance of fire safety, followed by someone trying to start a fire with gasoline.
But, of all the guarantees, the one that held the most true was after the fun.
Once everybody had packed up, our scoutmaster would remind us to make sure that we’d cleaned up our area. We would all take a few minutes to look over our own little piece of the site to make sure things had been cleaned up.
Then, just before we left, our scoutmaster would line up all the scouts at one end of the campsite. We would hold hands, and then spread out to make sure we could effectively cover as much ground as possible. Once we were lined up and ready to go he would let us loose and have us slowly, and carefully cover the campground picking up any little shred of paper or loose piece of packaging we’d missed in our own separate clean-ups.
The whole time we walked across the site, he’d call out to us, “Boys, leave this place better than you found it.”
It never ceased to amaze me how improved the grounds were after we walked together hand in hand.
As I think of those days, now so long ago, I think the call still holds true. Our assignment as brothers and sisters in this place is to do all we can to leave “this place” better than we found it. Can there be any better compliment paid at the end of our lives than to have it said that we did our part in leaving things better.
If we ever want to have any real chance at doing so, I believe we must follow my scoutmaster’s instructions to the letter—Holding hands with our neighbors to make sure we can cover as much ground as possible, we must watch carefully and hear our own voice repeat, “Leave this place better than you found it.”
This Christmas lets each remember and renew our desire to do all we can to remove those things that can clutter and mess our lives and the lives of those around us. Let’s work together to remove the suffering, and take away the grief. Let’s take care to take away the suffering, and rid lives of strife. Then, and only then, will our world truly end up better than we found it.