Caves and clean hearts
After the winter and spring we’ve had in the Quad Cities this year, even the slightest hint of nice weather begs for us to get outside. Last Saturday a group of young adults from St. Paul did just that. They gathered together for a day trip to Maquoketa Caves State Park. What a beautiful, not-so-hidden, local gem!
You don’t have to hike very far from the parking lot to get a glimpse of a massive cave. But before you make your way (either eagerly or anxiously) down some stairs towards the dark, mysterious cave mouth, a park ranger stops you to make an announcement:
Many of the bats that make their home in the Maquoketa Caves are suffering from a disease called White-Nose Syndrome. It is a fungal irritation on the bat’s skin that can lead to a premature death. The disease is a phenomenon that began in caves in the northeast part of the U.S., and it has spread to caves all over the country.
The culprit for the spread of White-Nose Syndrome? Humans. It turns out that invisible spores from our clothing and shoes can transfer the fungus from cave to cave, even without our knowing. In order to curb the continued spread of the disease, the park ranger asks everyone to wipe their feet on the way in and out of the trail.
It’s eye-opening to learn that something as innocent as hiking can have such a negative impact. And it’s important to understand that a simple change in our behavior – just taking the time to wipe our feet – can make such an enormous difference. This kind of awareness puts all of our actions into perspective. The things that we door do not doare meaningful.
Whether we realize it or not, we have the power to change the world for better or for worse, even in small ways. This anecdote about bats reminds us that we can do damage even when we don’t mean to. But we have the ability to do great things with ordinary acts of kindness and love, too! It turns out that God has left us with quite a responsibility.
You might find yourself overwhelmed thinking about the potential consequences of your actions. And that’s when the words like the ones in Psalm 51 can come in handy. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” We aren’t perfect. But perhaps we can pray for God to give us the grace we need to make the right choices more often than not. That’s the hope. If so, the lives of people and bats all around us will become a little bit brighter each day.