Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at our annual ladies’ tea and talked about leaving a legacy. This was actually prompted by the recent death of my mother and knowing what a wonderful legacy she has left. She has touched more lives than anyone can possibly know and the ripple effect will continue on for generations. As I thought about this, I also thought about how my life is being lived and what kind of legacy I am leaving for my family and friends.
Here are some of my conclusions on leaving a legacy. Shannon Adler said, “Carve you name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” We want to leave a positive legacy. But how do we get there? Here are some areas we need to think about.
1. A legacy of faith. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (ESV) says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” We need to share God’s love with our families. We need to give more than lip service to our faith, so that our families can see how faith is really played out in our lives, through the good times and the bad times. One of the greatest gifts we can leave is the gift of sharing the love of Christ. I am sad to say sometimes in my life I really fall down on this one, and pray that God will graciously touch the lives of my children with His love.
2. A legacy of relationships. One of the things that always impressed my about my mom, was her great capacity to make friends from all walks of life. She had a vested interest in all of her family and friends and had friends dating all the way back to her school days. Relationships are important and we need to be sure to cultivate ours. Sometimes it is not convenient to focus on relationships, but think about it. God created us for relationship with Him. Shouldn’t we reflect that value in building relationships with others?
3. Legacy of compassion. It is important that we show our family and those around us the value of compassion. Get involved in helping others in need. It can be through your church, giving to charity, getting involved in Habitat for Humanity, a mission organization, the USO, or wherever. Serve so that others can follow your example. People who serve others are far happier in the long run than those who live self-absorbed lives.
4. A legacy of encouragement. I remember Bert Keethler. Bert was a long-time member of the church my husband and I were a part of for many years. She left a legacy of encouragement that is unparallelled by anyone I know. She always had a kind word for everyone, she remembered all of the children by name, and she was an encourager. It takes so little to encourage someone: A smile, a kind word, a handwritten note, a plate of cookies, shoveling a driveway, raking leaves, etc.
5. A legacy of finances. While it would be nice to leave a lot of money to our children, it is more important to teach them how to handle their finances and be good stewards of their resources. We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, but Mom could make a dollar go farther than most people I know. We need to teach our children to be both frugal and generous. God has given us our resources, let’s us them wisely.
As I grow older, I look back sometimes with regrets that I didn’t do things differently with my children. I didn’t always model the kind of lifestyle I want for them, and was far cry from the perfect parent. I hope that my children will always know that I love them and I love the Lord. I will continue to work on the kind of legacy that I want to leave for the people around me.
Growing up I never thought I would want to be like my Mom (who wants to when they are kids?). But now I would be privileged to have the kind of impact she has had on others. She was a mentor, a friend, a teacher, and a disciplinarian. She taught us good values and left a legacy that will last for generations. I will continue writing my story and building my legacy. I only pray that it is one that points the way to heaven.
“You story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs.” -Steve Saint