Jewel Cave

By Mike Johnson

The motorhome section of the parking lot was huge. It was obvious that Jewel Cave, South Dakota was equipped to handle many RVers like us.

Established in 1908, the cave lies hidden beneath 1,274 surface acres. Over 80 miles of underground caverns have been mapped, making it the third largest cave in all the world.

Its carefully constructed elevator and walkway system allow visitors to drop 400 feet below the surface, entering a world of jewel-like rock formations that have remained unchanged for millions of years. The Rangers in charge of the caverns are especially touchy about preserving them in their pristine condition.

A couple decades ago, they were delighted to discover the birth of a small water seepage from one of the more fantastic formations. In an underground world that remains unchanged for millennia, witnessing this new birth was a stroke of geological luck.

Some investigation, however, soon turned their delight into dismay.

It seems that the parking lot enlargement project had been completed on the surface -- where we had parked, some 400 feet above -- about the same time the seepage started. The Rangers were horrified to discover that their unconsidered actions on the surface had created such far-reaching effects underground, damaging the very caverns they most wanted to protect.

Our everyday actions produce repercussions of similar magnitude.

Nothing we say or do dissolves without impacting others. Often, these others are those we hold most dear. An unkind word, a dishonest action or a harsh judgment, have equal power to cause unimagined, far-reaching damage.

Although the effect is not always apparent on the surface, rest assured, that like the caverns below, significant harm of some sort or another has occurred.

As we deal with those we consider to be the jewels in our life, it's wise to remember what happened at Jewel Cave.


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