In my conversations with everyone from internationally known CEOs to the front line heroes who make the magic happen, each share one ultimate hope: They want to leave a legacy.
Pericles reminds us that, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
The American Philosopher William James wrote that, “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”
This has been on my mind as I read the powerful Washington Post article, Faces of the Dead. It distills the lives of 33 people who have died as a result of Covid-19 into a few sentences.
This is how it ends for all of us. The work of a lifetime is edited down to a sound byte. As the generations pass, even that fades. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people may forget your name and perhaps every detail of the rich person you were. Leave a legacy that they will never forget.
Leaving a legacy does not have to be a world changing discovery or a giant edifice. The most powerful legacies are small grains of sand that mix with the ingredients created by succeeding generations to create concrete ideas, bits of wisdom, small acts of kindness, generosity or courage that are welded in the human psyche long after the person who initiated it is forgotten.
Many of you have shared with me how you felt compelled to tell the people who have been important in your life how they have impacted the person you became. Especially now, this is a valuable gift.
I spoke with a high school friend this past week about this topic. He had no memory of the teachable moment he created for me and no idea of how important it was. I hope the realization that he made a difference was a reassurance that he, like all of us, has the power to be a life changer.
As I watched the trees my parents planted in our backyard grow into towering monuments over the 30 plus years we lived there, I was reminded of Warren Buffett’s wisdom, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
We will forget who planted the seeds. But the true value of leaving a legacy is how goodness endures.
In a time where a human being can be a vital life force one week and succumb to pandemic the next, there is an urgency of self examination going on in many of our minds. It boils down to this:
Have I made difference?
You have. But whatever your contributions, there is an urgent need in our combined psyche to align our faith in the future with the little things we see that give us hope for a better tomorrow.
It’s never too late to plant those seeds and leave a legacy.
And you may not fully realize how one small thing you did may ripple across future generations, helping to create a better world for people you will never meet.
This is the ultimate purpose of being.
Try writing your own three line life condensation. If you’re not happy with it, it’s not to late to change it.