Shovelling our sidewalk a few weeks ago I noticed an unusual set of tracks making their way right up to our house. Not possessing expertise on such matters I took a picture and headed for that all-knowledgeable source of information: Google.
As best as I can determine, our visitor was a friendly racoon.
As snow continued to fall over subsequent weeks I quickly discovered that our guest obviously felt at home around our place and made regular appearances. It heightened my focus on tracks.
Some time ago I was caught in a blizzard, a real, honest-to-goodness Canadian blizzard!
I was driving from Banff to Calgary when the heavens opened and the largest snowflakes I have ever seen fell with a vengeance. Within minutes the highway was inches deep in heavy, slippery snow. Vehicles spun out of control all around us heading into ditches on both sides.
Experiences of that nature do have valuable side benefits. They definitely serve to improve one’s praying.
As I white knuckled it and continued to drive, it became apparent that one technique was essential to survival. The technique was to get behind a four wheel drive vehicle with good tires and then to stay in his or her tracks. The rental vehicle I was driving was not equipped with snow tires and to have someone else leading the way was an answer to my prayers.
Once again, I learned the value of tracks.
The experience reminded me of an incident related by one of my parishioners. He was roto-tilling his garden with his young grandson tagging along for company. As the grandfather turned to begin a new row he noticed that his grandson was, with great effort, attempting to step precisely in the footprints he had left in the freshly tilled soil. He described it to me as one of the most sobering moments of his life.
These events, highlighting the importance of tracks also raise a pair of life-altering questions:
First, they cause me to question whose tracks I am following. In a day and climate that has the potential to raise new heroes as quickly as a You Tube video can go viral, it is essential to question the values and direction they embrace. Before stepping in the tracks of superstar athletes, actors or financial giants it is of value to seriously question where their tracks lead.
The second question is to openly wonder who might stepping in the tracks I am leaving. Very few people have an accurate assessment of the influence they possess. It is rare for one to be aware of a grandson or granddaughter stepping in their footsteps.
With no intent of being sexist I want in particular to call out men: grandfathers, fathers, uncles, older brothers and so on, to pay more attention to the model you provide. The way you treat women, the amount you drink, the language you use, the character and integrity you display has more impact on those coming behind you than you realize.
On a personal note, my own father turns 98 on Monday and I am incredibly proud to say that I am honored to try to follow his footsteps. He is a true inspiration and model worth emulating.
As I consider the concept of tracks as a Christian, the thought is not lost on me that the founder of our faith, Jesus Christ, was best known for two words He frequently used. He was known to declare, “Follow Me,” and then leave a set of incredibly challenging and inspiring tracks.
It may be only a racoon out for a neighborly stroll, or it may be an SUV guiding someone through a blizzard, or maybe, it’s a genuine model showing us the way to live, in any case it matters to pay attention to tracks.