At least four inches of snow had fallen. It was much too cold and much too early for my muscles to be aware of what I was asking of them. I forced on my boots, grabbed my hat and gloves, and slipped out the front door. I was met immediately by the wind pounding hard against my face.
Across the unplowed street, in-between two large oaks rested the opening to the path. Leading deep into the woods, the path had existed ever since I was a boy. That’s when its frequenters were daily. Of late, the path stood lonely but firm holding its place for the few brave who dared enter. I hadn’t seen any enter or exit the path in quite a while. Perhaps my presence today would give it the companionship it longed for.
My breath exhaled visibly ahead of me cutting through the cold and then quickly disappearing with the wind. Passing through the path’s entrance I nodded to the bulky oaks that guarded the entrance. In a way, it showed my respect to the mighty giants. The snow cover was much lighter underneath the canopy of the trees. Autumn’s spare leaves and the dormant shrubs lay untouched from the deposit made by last night’s storm. The path jotted off slowly to the left but I paused to drink in the beauty. God’s creation was screaming out loud with grace and perfection. I sighed to myself in disbelief. How could this old path have such splendor left? I couldn’t help but feel that we were the same, this path and me. Old friends beaten by the wind, worn and weary from the years, but holding onto the magnificence in which we were created.
I started to walk.
My feet became lighter with every step and soon was in a deep exchange with the path. We shared laughs and smiles, stories and dreams. The gorge lay off to my right. The sun had emerged from the clouds and was throwing beams of light through the branches above. The rays lit up the edge of the gorge like it was decorated for a banquet. To my left was a series of strong splendid pines. Each marked with the wisdom they had gathered over time. What a sight. What an experience. I felt God had laid this path out with his perfect creativity just for me. Just to teach me how beautiful and wonderful I am.
I reached the mile marker and turned to head home.
Only ten steps into my round trip a sharp glare caught my eye. Three feet off of the path, resting quietly, was a smashed coke can. Right beside it was a used candy wrapper. In disgust I bent and picked up both. I didn’t want any blemishes on the path this day.
No more than ten feet farther I noticed another piece a trash on the ground. This time it was a gum wrapper.
Horrible! I thought to myself.
The litter found its place in my hand tightly next to the coke can and candy wrapper. I’m hardly affected by litter on the ground, but today, on this perfect path, I couldn’t let it be ignored. My walk transformed into a clean-up mission.
I fiercely searched each step along the path for any sight of garbage. I found a plastic bag half hidden underneath the snow and leaves and put my collection inside. Wrapper after wrapper, can after can, each item was removed from its temporary position and placed in the bag.
By the time I reached the end of my walk I had accumulated two bags, each full to the brim and ready to explode. How had I missed all this garbage on the first half of my walk?
I turned to look back down my path. All these small pieces of trash by themselves seemed irrelevant and easy to ignore. But when collected in these bags there was nearly too much for me to carry. Perhaps God was teaching me something else this morning. I guess I had more in common with the path than I thought.