I can be a bit of a clutz sometimes, especially when I’m tired, overwhelmed, or distracted. Which, thanks to a crazy day job project, is how I spent much of last week. As a result, I ran into things…and now have the bruises to prove it. Of course, in the moment of impact, I remember thinking “that’s going to leave a mark” but today as I look at the swirls of purple and yellow, I can’t remember exactly what happened.

I only know that I’m changed (even if it’s only temporary) by the encounters.

A week ago, our pastor talked about leaving a legacy in the context of a living a generous life. However, one of his points was that we leave a mark on the lives of everyone we come in contact with. Good or bad. Encouraging or critical. Kind or dismissive. And whether or not it fades or lingers, there is a mark.

Between the sermon and saying goodbye to my oldest son as he headed back to college after Spring Break, I found my mind wandering to an incident in the past where that same son left a mark…on his sister, our kitchen, our memories, and in the minds of all the other parents I shared the story with.

It was a Saturday morning and I awakened to the giggles of my two toddlers across the hall. As I drifted in and out of that lazy half-dozing state, I remember thinking how blessed I was to have my husband snoring beside me and two happy children, even if our daughter would face challenges throughout her life. For today, it was a good day.

I must have fallen back to sleep, because the next thing I remember is hearing a knock on our bedroom door and the cries of my daughter. I bolted out of bed and rushed over, opening the door to find my pajama-clad kids standing there, one behind the other. At least my trouble-making son looked completely normal as he grinned over the top of his crying sister’s head. A head of dark hair with a pool of white liquid at the top. The same white that streaked her face, her hands, and as I later discovered, her entire torso underneath her zippered footie pajamas.

I snuggled the crying girl while interrogating her brother. All he said was “paint” before disappearing back in the direction of the kitchen. I followed with trepidation and learned first-hand how much liquid could come out of the half-used bottle of Wite-Out correction fluid my husband had left on the table where he’d been drawing up football plays. In addition to the Exhibit 1 puddle and streaks decorating my daughter, my son’s activity had left a mark on the papers, table, chairs, floor, and walls as he had apparently poured, painted, and then paraded around the room shaking additional spatters from the bottle.

I’d like to say that his decorate-my-sister-and-home tendencies dwindled, except there was a Vaseline incident a week later that finally removed the last white flecks from her hair, a finger-painting-on-faces-and-walls incident when he broke into my craft closet, and a year later a curly-cue trail of chocolate syrup throughout the entire house. I guess you could say that my son knows how to leave a mark.

Thankfully, as he grew, he began to direct those energies into sports and friends, leaving marks of a different kind in school records, mentoring relationships, and character awards. Which brings me back to the idea of leaving a legacy.

My daughter didn’t appreciate the kind of mark her brother left with the Wite-Out, just like I don’t appreciate the bruises I picked up during a rough week. Those marks hurt and stain. However, there are other kinds of marks–positive marks. Marks that change the trajectory of a person’s day, week, or life. The kind of marks that could change their eternity if it helps someone┬áto believe in God’s love and plan for their life.

Even the smallest encounter with someone else can mark them with an improved attitude, a smile, and the energy to keep going. Other encounters can spark a train of thought or encourage the pursuit of a forgotten dream. And when we realize we are vessels filled with God’s love, we can intentionally pour out, dab, or scatter that love wherever we go.

That’s the kind of mark I’m determined to leave on the world.

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