Today, as I sit on the step of my front porch plunging my feet into the sandy springtime dirt, my eyes scan the ground and I spot a few rocks. One stands out from the rest – it is flat and colored grey. I pick it up, and low and behold, on both sides lay fossilized leaf imprints! I’m not sure how this fossilized rock got there—sitting on top of my dirt—but as I feel its contours and indentations, it speaks to me of life. What kind of imprints do I leave on others when I interact with them?

The once green leaves that embedded the fossilized rock are no longer there, but nevertheless, it is a sight to behold. There is an absence of what once was, except for the outlined imprint of each leaf. There is space inside the tracings where there once was oxygen and life. The imprints still have texture and contours and have left beautiful impressions of something created long ago, but only now discovered and enjoyed.

How will I/we be remembered? Day by day, we leave impressions on people. Some interactions we have shared will be embedded into their memories, and some will not. We don’t get to choose. However, each moment in our day, we have an opportunity to make a difference, to make a lasting impression for the benefit of another. Or, if our actions are demeaning or hurtful, they can leave lasting fossilized impressions difficult to forget or recover from.

As I hold and feel this rock, I wonder how and when the fossil was formed. What was the circumstance that entrapped the leaves, preserving them long enough to create this relic? How I would love to know! The only information that is permanently recorded is the impression that is left. Some impressions are more lasting than others; others are never remembered or stored.

One lasting impression I have received is a simple smile from a stranger. I had just hopped into my car after spending time at the therapy pool. I happened to look up at a woman as she was passing by and caught her smiling at me. For some reason, this particular smile has been fossilized in my mind. I don’t remember what she looked like, what she was wearing, or nearly anything else. There are lapses in my memory, but her smile has stuck with me. She will never know, and I will never be able to thank her. I just know that her smile has affected me in a positive way. This memory has been embedded into my hippocampus—a positive fossilized memory stored in the cells of my brain that triggers a smile in me whenever I remember it.

You and I have both positive and negative fossilized memories stored in our brains. Stop for a moment, and consider some positive memories you’ve received from others. Maybe you only remember a simple outline, or experience a general texture of the memory: a smile, an act of kindness, a meal shared, or, a generosity received.

Now think of how you can leave a positive impact on the next person you meet. How do you want to be remembered? What kind of positive impression can you leave for the benefit of that person? It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, just sincere. Small, genuine acts of love can counteract negative impressions we are bombarded with daily. Let’s contribute to beautiful fossilized memories for the benefit of the people we meet today. Your act of kindness may be captured and stored forever, contributing to the health and well-being of strangers and friends around you.

You never know when someone will be sitting on their front porch and recall a fossilized memory of you that will trigger a smile in them.

Thank you, if that someone who smiled at me that day was you. Know that you have made a lasting fossilized impression in my life.

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