I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.from My Shadow, Robert Louis Stevenson
Spring Break Season is in full swing. For many living in places prone to a March 30 snowfall, heading to the warmth of the American South is an annual pilgrimage of necessity as the outer limits of tolerance for cold, cloudy weather are surpassed. Hopefully, as you read this post today, you are sipping a cup of coffee looking out over blue waters and white beaches kissed by the sun’s warmth.
Our Spring Break came early this year but we were still able to get away and enjoy the pleasures of Florida’s Gulf Coast with some of our loved ones. For my 22 month old grandson, Cooper, it was a grand adventure of new experiences. One of his favorite activities, was walking off the flat, predictable surface of the sidewalk and testing his balance against the unevenness of the grass or sand. One of my favorite activities was holding his hand as he took those first steps of uncertainty.
On one particularly sunny day, we were holding hands along a grassy stretch looking over a greenish blue pond and I noticed our shadows moving slowly beside us. For a moment, our shapes seemed to cut a pattern from our surroundings leaving only the darkened outline of our passing imprint.
My gaze fixed on that place marked by our shadowy forms – our cutout on the world around us – and I was struck by the profound and fleeting nature of their passing. For that moment, our shadows shifted the scene and then it passed, allowing the landscape to return to its bright green self.
Looking more closely, I noticed the outsized shape of my shadow towering over little Cooper’s, occasionally blocking his little form as we shifted just-so in the sunshine. On that day, my form overshadowed his in certain moments; the day will come when his will overshadow mine.
We pass through each day casting our own shadow upon the world around us. Our words, actions, and presence mark an outline of our passing and, for a few moments, impact those who see it or walk within it. The shadows we cast reflect our beliefs, our loves, our hopes, our fears…even the energy we feel toward the things they touch. Such is how we move through life, casting our shadow upon those around us and then watching it fade as time causes the orientation of the earth to shift.
Often we fail to notice our shadow. Silently it follows us along, moving across the landscape of our life, touching those in its path in unseen ways at unknown times, then moving on again. While our gaze centers on our own interests, our shadow reflects our movements toward other directions – throwing it upon all who experience us.
That day in the sun, I looked at my shadow and wondered about its effect on those around me. Are the shadows I cast supplementing the brightness of the world around me by their dispersion of light or am I just throwing shade?
As humans, we are famously capable of obliviousness related to our own shadows. With a gaze centered on the task, want, or need at hand, we are prone to move unaware, consumed with our own urgencies. All the while, life around us changes with our passing – affected by our pursuit of those urgencies. Impacted whether or not we ever noticed or intended it.
Are you casting a positive shadow or throwing shade? It is a question worth considering. In your passing, are you changing the world for the better? Or, more importantly, is your shadow making the difference you want it to make in the places most important to you?
Today, find a spot of sunshine and take a look at your shadow. Consider all of the places it might touch as you walk through your days and answer the questions above. Then, steel your resolve to cast a shadow worthy of those you love.