By: Jamie Collins
As some of you know, I’ve been straddling between the worlds of blogging here on our fun forum and publishing posts to my LinkedIn profile, mostly of an inspirational genre. While I don’t like duplicating content, I realize that many of our loyal TPS followers are not members of LinkedIn. (I know, I can’t believe it either! But it’s true. They miss out on some of my inspiring posts and our truly fabulous “Social Club” on LinkedIn.) In the spirit of inspiring others, I wanted to reprint this post today to share some important thoughts regarding one’s legacy. I hope it speaks to you.
I’ll never forget the day I attended my grandmother’s funeral. She lived the majority of her morally punctuated, incredibly industrious, 90 years of life as a farmer’s wife and mother to 6 children, in a little town called Casco, Wisconsin. She was the type of grandmother who’d lived through the Great Depression, slaughtered chickens, canned food in the basement, milked cows, made a mean dessert, pinched pennies, could sew, clean or repair darn near anything, and was wise beyond her years. The day of the service, people stretched down the street and around the block, waiting to gain access to the large, stained glass cathedral. I remember sitting on a long, wooden pew, next to my son and husband, near the front of the church. Hundreds of people filled the room. I was struck by the number of lives she had touched.
In that moment – I remember wishing I had gotten to know her better. Wishing I’d asked her more questions. Longing to know her better as the “woman” she actually was and not just the “grandma” I’d known her to be.
But the time had passed, as had the opportunity. (That’s not to say the two of us didn’t spend time together or know one another fairly well; we did. But there was so much more I would’ve liked to have known about her from my perspective as a 30-year-old woman, than I ever cared to inquire as a teenager or young adolescent girl).
One of my cousins stood up and took her place in the front of the pulpit and began to read a poem, as part of my grandma’s eulogy. It spoke of a person’s lasting impact on the lives of others. One’s community, family, colleagues, and friends – our legacy. What it is we leave behind; the memory of a person and the small, often invisible (but absolutely tangible) ripples of change, inspiration or betterment that linger long after we are gone. It made me realize the tremendous potential each of us has to make an impact on those around us in the days, weeks, months, and years we are given.
I think most of us, in our own small way, hope to change, affect or inspire others for the better. We wish to positively impact the lives of those around us in a truly meaningful way. To be viewed as a person of integrity, authenticity, happiness, responsibility, character, and success; one who had her priorities straight, life together, and found herself living on the right side of life’s tracks. A person who invests her time to elevate the lives of others.
Yet, if we stop to really ponder it, we find ourselves wondering what we’d even want that legacy to be. This line of thinking leads us to consider some big questions: Who it is we really want to be, what it is we want to do on this earth, and what we’d like to be remembered for once we depart it. Thinking on it further, I realized what each of us probably wants to leave behind is actually two legacies – one personal, for our family and those who know us best, and another for those who walked the path of life alongside or behind us in a meaningful way, perhaps in more of a professional or leisurely capacity.
When it all comes down to it, here’s what we truly want:
To know that who we were mattered.
To know that what we said mattered.
To know that what we did mattered.
To know that we positively affected the lives of those around us in a big way.
Ultimately, to know the place we will one day leave behind is far better off for having had us in it. In essence, we each hope to leave our own small mark upon the world.
Today, I ask you to consider your own legacy – your personal and professional impact. The message you wish to send out into the world. The small, invisible (but absolutely tangible) ripples of a legacy you’ll leave behind. What do you want it to be? Who do you want to impact or inspire? In what way? And most importantly – what can you do today to move yourself one small step closer toward attaining that legacy? For little by little, day by day, you’ll one day meet it in the roadway of life, hopefully, a long time from now. But whatever it is, whomever it impacts, whatever it is you’ll do with your limited, rare and precious time on this planet– you’ll build it a little at a time, moment by moment, day by day. The days will turn into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years.
What you need to know is this:
Who you are (and will be) matters.
What you say matters.
What you do matters.
The way you affect the lives of those around you will remain as your legacy.
Again, I ask you:
What do you want your legacy to be?
Who do you hope to impact or inspire?
Most importantly – What can you do today to move yourself one small step closer to it?
Really think about it. Ponder it deeply. Because it really does matter. To you. To them. To everyone who will walk life’s path alongside you and to those you’ll leave behind. Today you are building a legacy, for better or worse, intentionally, enthusiastically or otherwise.
Leave your own small mark upon the world.
In a way that only you can.
“The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave.”
– Tavis Smiley, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
“I had an inheritance from my father,
It was the moon and the sun.
And though I roam all over the world,
The spending of it’s never done.”
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
– Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”
– Kalu Ndukwe Kalu
“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
– Alfred Lord Tennyson
® All Rights Reserved – Jamie Collins – 2014
If you enjoyed today’s post, I’d love to hear from you. Now get out there and tackle the day like the legacy builder you are! Be sure to swing back by our site at the end of the week, when we’ll be sharing a hilarious post by a new guest writer. (Note to Paralegals – She. Is. Funny.)