What’s Left Behind
Ultimately Connects Us All
by Debbie McCarson
A faint smell of peppermint lingers on the steps of the altar in my church. This is because, every Christmas Eve, my pastor tells the children a story about a candy maker, and his construction of the candy cane to represent the life and death of Christ. He then strikes the biggest candy cane you ever saw across his wooden pulpit, shattering it to pieces. The children run to the altar, each grabbing a piece of the sweet treat.
The peppermint fragrance is left behind for weeks after the event, and each time I smell it, it connects me to memories of dozens of Christmas Eves and holiday traditions spent with people I have grown to love.
Things left behind connect us to others. Robert Frost observes this in his poem “Tuft of Flowers.” In it, he tells the story of a man who goes out to work at his job of turning wet mown grass in order for it to dry. As he is working, he notices a tuft a flowers left intact, a touching display, a butterfly’s rest, saved from the mower’s blades. Recognizing this purposeful act performed by another, the man feel an immediate connection to the mower, and no longer feels the burden of his lonely work. Although the men never meet, the poet feels the camaraderie of one who has gone before.
This is important to recognize, this reality that others have gone before us. Every opportunity we have is the result of someone else’s labor. Our world is the result of centuries shaped by the ebb and flow of civilization, a living entity built of one soul’s lifetime upon another.
Yet within that scope of civilization, those lifetimes were, and are, filled with the complexities and simplicities of daily living that teach us to mind what we leave behind. When I was a child, my oldest sister, while teaching me to straighten up after myself, would tell me to think of the people that would come behind me. “Leave things nice for them,” she would say. My mother would tell me, “Turn around before you leave the room, and see what you’re leaving behind.”
Women are very good leave-behinders. We leave notes; we leave food; we leave clean laundry. Most of the time, we leave a job well done. However, sometimes, things that are left behind are not so pleasant. Dirty dishes in the sink. Undone responsibilities. Bad news. Anger. These are the things we tend to resent because they hinder our moving forward. They affect us. They delay us. Still, they connect us. All that we do in any given day somehow connects us to another human soul. Without that connection, life would be empty. Human connection gives live meaning; it gives reason to the mundane.
Things left behind cause us to realize we are not alone in the universe. Others have been obliged to us, and now we are obliged to others for what we leave behind. Friends or strangers, we are aware of, we are accountable to, we are thankful for, that other life. As Robert Frost concludes in his poem, “Men work together . . .whether they work together or apart.”
D. McCarson 2012
Debbie McCarson has spent the last ten years teaching English classes and working as the business administrator at a local private school before starting her own company which offers professional writing services to small businesses and non-profit organizations.
Debbie lives in Barnsboro with her husband and five sons.
Having experienced the escapades of this gender override in her home for two decades, she thoroughly enjoys writing about issues relevant to women.
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