My daughter uncovered some family photos in her basement recently and as I looked through them I thought about the people I never knew who are part of who I am. The great grandfather who at 17 was orphaned in the harsh Des Moines winter and drove his sister to Utah in the second surge of Mormon wagon trains and later became the first Senator from that state. I feel that pioneer spirit in many of my life choices.
The grandfather whose first job was hauling produce who went on to establish a string of produce companies in mid-Missouri. He served as Mayor of his small town of California. I have some of his organizing ability – when my children were young I was instrumental in popularizing a Picture Lady Program in my school district so that it was picked up by the Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City and made available to school children all over the Greater Kansas City area.
There are lots of writers on my Mother’s side and that’s being passed on to my grandchildren.
I don’t know much about the people beyond my great grandparents. I don’t know their stories or where they were from or how they lived their lives, but if it weren’t for some of their choices I wouldn’t be here. And if it weren’t for some of my choices my four children and their nine offspring wouldn’t be putting their stamp on the world. We do leave our legacy – consciously and unconsciously.
It’s hard to see exactly what legacy we are leaving. We never know whether a smile or a kind word or a passing kindness has made a difference in the life of someone else. We don’t know if the idea we gave to one of our clients was a turning point in their business. We don’t know if our choice to learn something new was important to the next person we taught it to.
One of my favorite legacy stories is from a teleclass I gave eight years ago. There was a very small segment on forgiveness in the class – maybe five minutes worth. But I later got an email from one of the participants saying she really resonated with that section and although she had not spoken to her father for many years, she felt inspired to write him a note to begin the healing process. He had called her in tears and they began their journey back to each other.
If she hadn’t told me, I would never have known.
I have begun to be very aware of other people – what they need, how I might make a difference in their experience of the moment. If I listen well, move from my agenda to their agenda, offer advice only when it is asked, be present and fully engaged, I’ll contribute more.
As for actively working on leaving an inspirational legacy, I have always loved to help people who were out to make a difference in their world and when I help them they are able to reach more people and touch more lives. I’ll keep doing that.
What is your legacy? How are you helping others have a different life experience? Are your actions inspirational to others? Is your enthusiasm motivating? Is your quiet acceptance uplifting? As Mother Teresa said, “Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.”
That’s how you can leave your legacy.
© 2010 Cara Lumen
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