One can only imagine what that man was thinking and feeling 350,000 years ago. Scientists in Italy speculate that the recently discovered footprints of a Stone Age man suggest that he was trying to escape the eruption of a volcano. They don't know for sure. All they have to go on is a shallow imprint on the surface of the ground, preserved by a thick layer of volcanic ash.
Having done a little excavating of my own into far more recent history - some genealogical research - I know what it's like to have very few crumbs to follow when tracking someone's journey. My ancestors came to the US from Switzerland, spent several years in Wisconsin, and eventually put down roots in Minnesota. They were all farmers. All but one, that is. Albert, my great-grandfather, broke with the pack. He left the family farm, moved across the state, managed a hotel, played in the town band, bought a laundry business, and held a couple of positions in town government. Why did he abandon the plow for business and politics? I can only imagine. The rest of his life story was untold.
In a discussion at The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity, Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University, explained that many life stories go untold because people don't value themselves. They don't think their "ordinary" lives are worth knowing about or learning from.
How unfortunate. Someone's life story can be valuable for many reasons. It may be for having an accurate historical record, or for a more complete picture of a family, or of an era. Some find, as I do, a hunger to learn from the transformative moments in a person's life, those enduring spiritual insights and lessons that can be life-changing. These untold stories are, sadly, a loss of light for the rest of us.
At some point in our lives we find that we're not as good at navigating on our own as we may have believed. We need light. We need wisdom. We need God and His thoughts. We yearn for guidance. We hunger for Truth and Love to enrich us, to dispel our fears, to heal the heart, soul, and body. I'm particularly grateful that Mary Baker Eddy not only knew the immeasurable value of the lessons she learned from her discovery and practice of Christian Science, but that she realized how vitally important it was that those precepts and lessons be available to a world desperately in need of light. Her signature book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," her sermons, manuscripts, and letters will continue to be a beacon for generations.
Which brings us back to the inherent value of every life story, especially those moments that point to the things of Spirit. What should we do with those insights and lessons?
Frank Laubach, an American Congregationalist minister, knew what he had to do. He came to the conclusion that he should make them known at every opportunity. Not for self-serving reasons, but because he recognized their infinite value to everyone.
In a letter to his father in 1937, Mr. Laubach wrote: "Yesterday and today I have made a new adventure, which is not easy to express. I am feeling God in each movement, by an act of will - willing that He shall direct these fingers that now strike this typewriter - willing that He shall direct my words as I speak, and my very jaws as I eat! ... It is not fashion to tell your inmost thoughts, but there are many wrong fashions, and concealment of the best in us is wrong. I disapprove of the usual practice of talking "small talk" whenever we meet, and holding a veil over our souls.... As for me I am convinced that this spiritual pilgrimage which I am making is infinitely worth while, the most important thing I know of to talk about. And talk I shall while there is anybody to listen. And I hunger - O how I hunger! for others to tell me their soul adventures" ("The Protestant Mystics," 1964).
Amen, Mr. Laubach. What a mistake to devalue our lives and spiritual lessons, or to think that others aren't hungering to learn from them. The Galilean prophet tried to convince people of their value as the light of the world. Jesus also urged that we not let any of that precious light be concealed. That's great advice for anyone wanting to make a better world. Value your light. Let it be seen. Tell the world of your soul adventures.