What Legacy Will You Leave?
The sun is setting on a warm summer day, and a cowboy in his mid-fifties is leaning on a fence post with his dusty work gloves tucked away in his back pocket. He watches the colors of the sky change as the sun melts into a cool, dark night. It’s a majestic finale and his reward for persevering through a hard day’s work to provide a good life for his family.
That man was my Granddad Joe, and that’s the scene I imagine when I think of him. The vision is symbolic of a life well lived and the legacy that he left within our family and among those who had the privilege of knowing him.
Granddad Joe grew up during the Dust Bowl doing whatever he could to survive on the farm. His work ethic came from a necessity of working 14-hour days, laboring through the heat in the summer and the bitter cold of winter blizzards. Granddad Joe went to be with the Lord last year, but his work ethic was inherited by my father who, in turn, passed it on to me.
This is what comes to my mind when I think of a legacy.
I often ask myself, what kind of a legacy do I want to leave? How do I want to be remembered when I’m gone? For me, I know that I want a legacy that my children, grandchildren and many generations after that can be proud of – just like my father and my grandfather.
It’s never too late to consider your impact on the world. Following are some ideas to consider as you develop a vision for your legacy.
Know what you stand for. Which qualities are most important to you? Let these traits be the guideposts for how you see the world, how you spend your time, where you spend your money, and how you make decisions. Look to your role models, and identify the qualities that impacted your life in a positive way.
Live your values. What we do is more important than what we say. Values mean nothing if they are not put into practice every day. And I do mean practice. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail on occasion. We all aspire to perfectly embody our values, but being human, we will fall short. It’s all part of living and learning.
Talk about things that matter. One day, when I was growing up, I went out with my dad to feed the cows. I decided to run up a hill instead of riding in the truck with my dad. As I approached the top of the hill, I got tired, gave up, and hopped back in the truck. After a few minutes of silence, my dad said, “That’s the difference between you, your brother, and me. We would have crawled up the last 50 feet before quitting.” His words stung but he meant them with love and affection, and it’s a lesson that has pushed me to persevere through hard times. If he’d have kept quiet, I wouldn’t have learned.
Encourage yourself and others with slogans. When I was in high school, I asked my dad why he kept his head down and always worked hard. His response was, “One day it will all pay off.” That slogan has always stuck with me. Simple phrases like that are easy to recall, and they can help you uphold your values when the going gets tough. Here are some other examples. Choose your own slogans, write them down, say them often, and share them with others, especially children.
- Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
- Do good and good will come to you.
- Treat others as you would like to be treated.
- Always assume positive intent.
- Those who deserve love least need it most.
Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” This verse isn’t necessarily about a financial inheritance, but can also be interpreted as the life lessons we gain from our role models and the legacy we will one day pass on to our children. Together, generation-by-generation, we’re making our home, our community, and the world an even better place.