While sitting on my back porch right at sunrise yesterday morning, a plane flew across the blue sky and left a bright white line in the sky known as a contrail, or a condensation trail. As the plane continued its journey and left my sight, the trail behind it began to dissipate. While most of the contrail disappeared, there was a spot where the contrail had intersected with the cloud and it widened a bit and remained for a long time. Finally, it too, grew more faint until it was just a tiny mark in the sky.

Watching the last bit of the contrail extinguishing in the cloud reminded me of my own life. Like the plane traveling at hundreds of miles per hour, my journey on this earth is speeding past. I am moving through life doing the things we were put on earth to do: serving, laboring, learning, growing and sharing. I thought about my own contrail. Is it a straight line that never becomes very wide and disappears quickly? Or perhaps, is it like the contrail I saw that fades and fades, but one part of if remains longer, wider and brighter?

It was interesting to me that the place where the contrail burned the brightest was where it intersected the cloud. Scientists believe that the higher the altitude of the plane, the bigger the contrail. This is possible because the air in the higher clouds is wetter and when the water vapor from the engine of the plane, collides with the wet air in the cloud, ice crystals form to create the contrail. The more ice crystals, the bigger the contrail.

Isn’t that true about our life? Our chance to burn brightest is often in the clouds where it is the darkest and the wettest. Our struggles and our challenges provide us the greatest opportunity to make an impact for good. I have found four qualities that I believe enlarge our impact.

1. Integrity. Do the right thing even when it is hard.

2. Excellence. Work hard and give of your best all day, every day.

3. Loyalty. Maximize the opportunities in good times and hang tough during challenging times. Be true
to yourself and others.

4. Generosity. Give of your time, talent and treasure. Adopt an abundancy mentality instead of a scarcity mentality, believing there is enough opportunity for everyone.

I want to adopt the qualities and practices that help me have a longer, wider and brighter impact on others. I hope we all do.