November 20, 2014

What is your legacy?

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Recently my grandson asked me what was the most important thing I had ever done. It was an unexpected question that really got my wheels turning.
Usually when people pass away there is a huge focus on the things they owned and who gets what, and the idea of handing down ideas and values was a totally new way to look at it.
What if the most important gift we can give our descendants is not a tangible item, but a piece of ourselves?
It seemed revolutionary!
So I started thinking about the things my loved ones (the ones still living and the ones who have passed) have shared with me.
I thought back to the backyard parties my grandparents used to have with family, friends, food, and music, always music. My grandfather played polkas on the accordion.
I spent much of my summers with them in Milwaukee and I would amuse myself for hours in my grandmother’s attic, playing make believe. My grandmother and my mom shared their love of games and books with us.
Some things were passed on and taken to heart. These are the ones that I want to continue as part of my legacy.
My grandparents demonstrated a deeply held faith and never missed early services on Sunday. My path isn’t the same as theirs, but as events in the past few years have moved me into a more spiritual path, I hope to enjoy a deep connection with the divine.
I have learned that there is magic in that connection. Take the time to listen. It’s so easy to hurry through life and it’s over too quickly. There is so much to learn and enjoy when you stop and take in the stories that are shared with you.
I like to say that public service runs in my family. I am but one link in a long chain of sharing and lending helping hands to those who were in need.
And what I know is that the energy of giving of ones self is extremely powerful, and generous actions will bring you as much blessing as it brings to those you help. I hope to be a good example of that.
I have vivid memories of all of these things. They have become a part of who I am and I hope they will become part of future generations.
I’ve also learned a few things of my own that I want to pass along.
I hope I can leave others with a belief in the goodness and the magic of the world outside their door. Because I know that there is beauty everywhere, you just need to open your eyes and take it in.
And I want to be a reminder that you should keep going when things get hard. If I learned anything through my own hardships and challenges, it’s that I became stronger than I ever thought.
Going through divorce, financial struggles, job loss, entrepreneurship, family issues, moving to a new state, several universities — all challenging — all tested me in ways I never could have imagined. I came out the other side stronger than ever before, and I will again when the next challenge pops up.
Gentle reader, I want to remind you not to think about how you will find the strength; instead, just keep moving and the strength will come to you.
Looking at what I have taken in from others and also what I have learned from my own experiences has been a powerful exploration of whom I am and what I hope to leave behind.
And I realized that in order to be that example, in order to pass on these beliefs and values, I have to live them consciously.
Knowing the legacy I want to leave behind helps me stay focused on what I’m doing in the present so that my goals are in line with that legacy. It offers a concrete sense of purpose in choosing what I am giving my energy to.
And the whole concept of legacy can be a deeply powerful way of connecting with others. Looking at your roots, ancestral, blood family, cultural, spiritual, or whatever avenue you choose to explore, connects you to those who have gone before you.
Planning the legacy you are leaving behind connects you to those whose lives you touch, and that they touch, and so on, potentially for generations to come.
I encourage you to really look at the things you carry on from past generations. See what you need to leave behind, as well as, what you want to carry forward.
What is your legacy?

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