Have you heard of this principle? Evidently (sorry about the pun!) it’s a basic concept of forensic science – that when two people or things or places come into contact in any way, there’s always a trace left. The contact time can be extremely brief, a fleeting forgotten moment, but nevertheless, a trace is left behind. If you’re a fan of any of the police/detective series so popular at present, you probably know quite a lot about this field already. But for all of us, it’s an amazing idea – wherever you’ve been and whoever you’ve been with, you’ve left a trace of yourself there. You have changed the scene, leaving evidence of your presence.
This is a thought-provoking idea, especially for any of us who sometimes feel insignificant, unnoticed, or even invisible. Even when you’re feeling you don’t make any difference, and nobody has noticed you, the fact is, every time you go anywhere, you actually change the place, whether you’re aware of it or not.
Thinking about this I have gained a new insight into what is actually happening when I walk past some people at the bus stop, my feet making contact with the pavement each step I take, or when I sit on a seat on the train (which seat shall I choose? and who shall I sit next to, my sleeve touching theirs?) I know now that whoever I touch, even briefly, I will leave a little of myself with them. A few molecules will pass from me to them, sticking to them, remaining after I have forgotten I’ve ever seen the person or shared a space with them. Does this sound freaky? Or a surprising insight into how interconnected we are, and actually how powerful each of us is. We’re all changing the world constantly, as we move about, as we live, as we breathe. Perhaps a few molecules, tiny particles of hair or skin, don’t seem to matter, but the words we say, perhaps carelessly or moodily, or the touch of a hand, can remain with people long after we’ve left the scene…for better or worse, we can’t take it back.
Knowing we are constantly changing the world around us, for better or worse, should be a wake-up call. Today I read in my Bible,
“Be very careful then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…Therefore do not be foolish…”
I shall try to keep this in mind today, remembering that everything I do, everything I touch, everything I say, leaves a trace.
Revd Veronica Podbury, Pastor of The Vine Community Church