My first experience with this idea came via my childhood experiences as a choirboy. The Singing Boys of Houston were on our annual summer tour and I was around 9 years old. Every year we went somewhere different and this year it happened to be New Mexico. Outside of Albuquerque there is a beautiful mountain called Sandia Peak. If you haven’t been there and you find yourself in New Mexico, stop by. It’s simply majestic! There is a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain and offers some unbelievable vistas.
Naturally, tons of people visit Sandia and as is always the case, where there are people there is also trash. The story goes that one of our chaperones, Alan, was so bothered by all the trash he came across during our visit that while hiking he made it his mission to pitch in and clean up a little. When it was time for the group to depart he walked up to all us young boys, around 36 in total, showed us all the trash he’d collected and shared with us the simple idea - Leave it better than you found it. That image, the mountain and his actions, just stuck with me. I had seen the trash and how it marred the beauty of this place. The fact that when he saw the trash he chose to do something about it resonated with me as a boy and still does today.
Why would he go out of his way to do something that many would say didn’t immediately and directly benefit him?
I believe his actions were a commitment to his faith that we can leave things better than we found them. When we discuss faith today we are most often trying to divide people into different religious boxes. But isn’t faith really a commitment to exercising the power of intentional choice and power without a clear line of site to its resolution. I believe that’s what the book of James reminds us of, that faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Because faith is a verb.
Faith is a lifestyle choice that is dictated by our values. As Ghandi shared, “It’s the action, not the fruit of the action that’s important. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”