Legacy exists in the lives we touch. Our influence can ripple across generations long after our names may be forgotten.
My beloved brother-in-law once told me, “Don’t worry too much about your mistakes. Four years after you die, nobody will remember who you were.”
The flip side is one of my father’s favorite maxims. “Keep doing good things. People will forget the bad ones.”
The Real Scott Westerman mastered good things. He passed them on until days before his own passing at age 92. Wherever life took him, he found a way to contribute. His inquisitiveness was only matched by his kindness.
An MLive article crossed my feed this week. It featured a familiar name who spent a day traveling on foot between all 32 of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, where dad served for many years. My father befriended Tom Jensen along the way. Whenever their paths would cross, dad would ask, “What exercise have you had today?”
Tom mentioned dad’s recurring question, with gratitude for dad’s mentoring. I wondered if others might be motivated by Tom’s example: He caught media attention for walking at least ten miles a day for the last 1,000 days.
I can trace an interest in engineering and electronics back to my grandfathers. One helped to design massive steam locomotives. The other recorded tapes for troops during the Vietnam war and introduced me to shortwave radio and the lovely aroma of magnetic Mylar.
My mother loved the written word. Her perfect cursive prose could lilt into poetry. Grandkids of her friends still consider her letters heirlooms. My own inconsequential attempts at storytelling reflect her affection for the art.
My wife’s beautiful mom instilled an appreciation for the culinary arts, something my own daughter grew to love. Colleen’s dad taught me how to turn two-by-fours, Romex, PVC and drywall into homes. He often pressed my hands into some broken furnace or non-functioning plumbing, saying “See? This stuff isn’t that complicated.”
Steve Schram is responsible for much of the success I may have enjoyed as a broadcaster and executive. My college roommate and treasured friend liked to say, “We need to set a higher standard. Whatever we do, we do it as professionals.” Next month, Steve receives the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Lifetime Achievement Award. Few have touched as many lives in the business. Mine is much better for his ongoing encouragement.
Echoes of past generations are everywhere. They sing on the edge of a smile, and manifest in deeds, good and bad, happening all around us.
In these extraordinary times, it sometimes feels like one person can do little to be a catalyst for positive change. When I sense the energy of friends and ancestors coursing through the people we have become, I am reassured that our best efforts are more than enough.
“Keep doing good things.” You might not witness their impact. But somewhere, sometime, they may make all the difference.