Better Than I Found It

We were on vacation last week at a lake. We’d found the perfect VRBO (vacation rental by owner) retreat – a townhouse with all of the modern amenities and a community indoor pool (which the kids loved and which was indispensable on the one day it poured).  We were very excited about  kayaking, boating, and time on the beach at the state park.  So I packed accordingly, making sure to include all of the things I knew we’d need: beach towels, swimsuits, inner tubes, goggles, life jackets, food, a first-aid kit….the list goes on.  Every parent (and the Girl Scout in me) knows – it’s good to be prepared.

I neglected, however, to read the last page of our rental agreement, which listed some items that would not be provided at the townhouse.  And the most basic of these was immediately missed when our family arrived after a 4-hour trip and three of us rushed into the house in search of “the facilities.”  And we knew we’d find them: there were two full bathrooms in the photographs we’d seen online, and a half bath as well.

My youngest ran into the bathroom closest to the front door.  About 30 seconds later I heard that crescendoing voice every mother dreads – the one that spells trouble.

“MOM!!!! There’s no toilet paper in here!!”

“Ok. Hold on. I’m sure there’s some around here somewhere.”

I began a very speedy search. The other bathrooms. Under sinks. The closets. Every cabinet.

There wasn’t a shred. Not a square.  Anywhere.

And the whole time, I was taking note (the way women do) of the fact that this place was immaculate. So clean that the biggest clean freak would have been satisfied.  And I heard in my head that haunting phrase from my Girl Scout days that so often repeats itself to me: “Always leave the place better than you found it.”

Typically, I would have been daunted. The countertops gleamed.  Every plate was perfectly stacked. The games and puzzles provided by the homeowner were organized by size, with the largest boxes on the bottom and smallest on top.  Every appliance (there were two waffle irons!?!) was scrubbed squeaky clean. This place even had new furniture for crying out loud!  Where could I make an improvement?  But after my frenzied search, I knew…it would be easy.

During our stay I tried to make sure we tread lightly, while still relaxing and enjoying ourselves. (And we did have an awesome time). I was so, so, so grateful for the opportunity to get away with my loved ones. And my husband lovingly reminded me that the rental agreement included a cleaning fee, and there was nothing for me to worry about.  So, I put my feet up and let things go.

But I knew that I would need to do my part for the next vacationers, because sometimes all we can leave behind is a tiny sign of Love.  A little thing that lets others know – someone was paying attention. Someone thought of them. Someone cared about what might be needed. At the end of the road.

When we departed on Saturday….Well – you can guess what I left behind.  And I’m pretty sure, someone was blessed by it.


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