I’ve had two occasions in the past two days to consider the answer to the question “What is your legacy?”
The first was at the 90th birthday party of a dear lady at my church on Saturday. The kind words and testimonies shared about her life of kindness, graciousness, giving and faith caused me to ponder what might be said (or not said) about me in such a situation. It was a time not only to honor a saintly woman, but to personally reflect on one’s own legacy.
The second was at a luncheon today for some of us who have committed to leaving part of our estate to our church when we pass from this life to the next. It is an annual luncheon where we are reminded of the work to be done and of the ways in which we can not only serve our Lord here and now but plan to help provide for work to be done long after we’re gone. The leader of the luncheon asked simply, “What is your legacy?”
Legacies come in different forms, both tangible and intangible. Where and how we invest our lives affects what (if any) legacy remains.
Our lives are invested in many different and sometimes unrelated areas. We devote much time, for example, to our work lives – more waking hours typically than any other single endeavor. It is right and good to care about the professional legacy we leave behind. With probably about ten years left in my professional career, I am aware of the career countdown clock ticking away in the background and I am working diligently to make a difference in my profession outside the walls of my employer. What will that impact be? I don’t know, but I’m doing my best to advance the field in the time I have left to impact it.
Additionally, we live in relationship with others – family, friends, neighbors, coworkers – and have countless opportunities for legacies of the heart and soul. As parents, we are the single most important influence in the developing lives of the children we bring into the world. What will be their first thoughts of us when we are a memory? How we choose to relate to a spouse will impact not just the externals of life together, but how that person feels about himself/herself the rest of their lives. Is that impact one for which they will be forever grateful or one which they may regret? Will neighbors speak fondly of you to future neighbors? Will they even know or care that you’re gone? Will coworkers think of you more than merely someone who did a job that another could easily assume in your absence?
Many of us invest in other volunteer efforts in order to make a difference in some small way in various pockets of influence around our passions and interests. (At least I hope we choose to spend some free time serving others and not always in pursuit of our own self-serving interests.) For whom will that time be given and what might be the ripple effect?
Others will have to answer the question one day as to what our legacy is. We can’t completely control that, but we can certainly influence it. It helps to have an idea of what you’d like to to be.
When others think of me, I would rather they remember me as kind more than angry, as giving more than taking, as funny more than somber, as loving more than judgmental, as reliable more than unpredictable, as generous more than stingy, as positive more than negative, as listening more than talking, as encouraging more than condemning, as thoughtful more than haphazard, and as faithful rather than hypocritical. I’d like to be worth remembering with a smile.
I have a long way to go.
I don’t believe too much in coincidences. For two unrelated and out-of-the-ordinary events in two days to bring the thought of one’s legacy to mind means either that other forces were at work to cause me to focus on this subject for two days, or that my heart was just in the right spot to ponder the question at this time. Either way, the question is a good one to ponder, worthy of the time one gives it.
What is your legacy?