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Somethings from Others Index

Others Write - Brother David Steindl-Rast


+Dear Friends,

Today, fresh snow is sparkling in bright sunlight. It is a good day to send you my seasonal greetings. At this time of the year, one of my special pleasures is watching tracks in the snow. Near the hermitage i often spot the trails of deer and rabbits. Dogs leave their traces next to human ones along the trodden paths. The few cats around here are shy, i rarely see their paw-prints, but on the porch, the crows whom i feed with cat food, reward me by printing with their feet small peace signs on the snow. The sea gulls who steal from the crows leave fainter peace signs, with their webbed feet. Along the hedgerows i can distinguish the tracks of squirrels, chipmunks, and mice by the distinctive sweep left between their footmarks by their different tails. Occasionally there is a set of tracks i cannot identify, but, when i turn around, there are always my own, all too lumbering footprints.

This reminds me of a question i had to answer at a conference that was the high point of my year. Concerned people were meeting with H.H. the Dalai Lama to ask: "What is our Legacy? What do we want to hand on to future generations?" Hence the question my interviewer asked me: "What is it you personally want to bequeath to the world?" My answer was: "There is no big program, no special legacy i want to leave behind. It has long been my goal to go with light steps through life and make as few tracks as possible."

As soon as i had said this, i realized that even, the website that contains much of my life's work, leaves traces only in cyberspace and – invisible there, too – in human hearts. And yet, thanks to our great team, Guardians, and friends, our Network for Grateful Living is expanding beyond expectation. To see that the invisible can have so powerful an effects in the visible world is a marvel to me and a great joy.

It is this joy that i wish you at this season. For, is it not a season of invisible benevolence in human hearts, expressed in visible acts of kindness? Are the best gifts we give not like tracks? Statues make no footprints, and gifts by which we merely set monuments to ourselves are not the ones that lift up drooping spirits. Genuine gifts are footprints of someone who has let go and moved on. In the empty space that is left grateful joy can expand. This is why the poet calls even the divine Giver from whom all good gifts come, "the Infinite Trace." May you find ever new joyful surprises as you track this Trace into a new year.

Your brother David


One in 8 Americans is living in poverty today. That is a national disgrace—and it is up to us to do something about it.

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