the sky floor

Leave Things Better Than You Found Them

October 31, 2022

Growing up, we did a fair bit of camping. The camping trip has a distinct story arc: you arrive full of exploratory ambition, you settle in and go on mini-adventures, and finally, you have to clean up and head home. For some reason, when I think of the adage, “leave things better than you found them,” I think of camping. 

When you show up, you often discover that the campers hadn’t thoroughly cleaned the site when they departed. At the end of your camping story, you groom the campsite so it looks spotless for the next campers. All week, my parents would repeat, “let’s leave this better than we found it.” And we always tried to. 

The implications of this could be wide-reaching and up to interpretation. Removing trash was obvious; not leaving new trash wasn’t even a question. But we also took it to mean, “let’s clean up the forest around the site and not leave the firepit an utter mess.”

To this day, I think I am leaving situations, projects, houses, and people better than I found them – it stuck with me as a rule for life. 

I have two questions: are you leaving things better than when you found them? And what other lessons from your past can you apply to your life now? 

It is worth remembering those little altruisms that guide us as children but become no less accurate when we grow up!

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