In the corner of a small bedroom of a house in Adelaide, situated roughly 6 kilometres from the city centre, the floor bears a blackish mark, unremarkable and often overlooked by visitors and even owners of the house. The mark was made early in the 1960s by two adventurous yet unknowing young boys who for reasons unknown decided to light a fire in their bedroom. Over four decades later, those two boys have long left the house and the state, yet there abides an enduring mark to their presence.
Each of us leaves a mark where we have been, much of it unnoticed, unremarked, and often left unawares. Scientists tell us that each time we touch a surface we leave traces of our DNA. Falling hair and skin likewise. Yet each of these traces can be more easily removed than they are able (or required) to be traced. And often the least impacting of the marks we leave. It is criminal attention to such detail which can determine the course of a life.
Every encounter leaves a mark: some more lasting than others. In the unfolding interactions of each day we leave thousands of marks around the house, the car, the city. As we move around, our presence makes a difference, not just in the physical world, but in relationship to the people we meet. An unkind word, an angry encounter, a conflictual conversation… each of them marks us for a time, in the same way that words of recognition and encouragement have a capacity to energise and lift us. We do not walk through life untouched, as if insulated from the environment and people who fill the day. Our inattention to this reality can leave unwitting scars on people we meet and on relationships we share. Marks as enduring as the black mark on my boyhood bedroom floor have resulted from careless words and deeds, and scarred relationships for a lifetime.
It is not only the famed and noted who leave their mark on history. We all leave a heritage because our words and actions impact the lives of those we encounter each day. Who of us hasn’t been buoyed by the encouraging words of a passer-by, or an unexpected word of praise? When we have been surprised with a gift, have we not felt more appreciated and more positive towards others? These are the marks which we leave every day.
Rahab the prostitute determined to help the Israelite spies as they explored the Promised Land. They remembered her when they returned to capture the city and spared her household. From Rahab’s line came King David, and Jesus: a small act of hospitality with history-shaping consequences. What mark have you left today?
September 4, 2005