Sometimes, I think about legacies and wonder whether it’s too late for me to leave one that means anything. I’m in my (late-ish) 40’s. I’ve had good jobs and did good things in them. I’ve bought homeless people food, donated clothing, time, and money.
But those things are mostly about being human.
They don’t exactly leave a legacy.
noun: legacy; plural noun: legacies
an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.
Interesting that legacy is defined by what we leave somebody in a will. That’s not what I think about when I think about the word. I think about legacy being the thing(s) we’re remembered by, once we’re gone.
Steve Jobs was 21 when he and Wozniak started Apple. They began in a garage. Apple left a legacy. There are books and movies about how Steve Jobs gave us music, email, photos, and the entire world’s library in our pockets.
I’m in my 40’s and my best most lasting legacy is my son and the world I’ve tried to help make for him.
“I give to others,” I say. And I do.
Feeling good by giving back is great and all, but if you think about it, is a bit selfish. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to do those things, it is. But sometimes, we don’t look at our own dreams and our own homes. We don’t look at leaving a legacy or the price we’d pay for leaving one.
Steve Jobs gave up a lot to give the legacy of Apple to the world.
That’s pretty hard for most of us to compete with, and so we don’t. Can’t, even. Any writer who writes thinking that she’ll never publish anything that isn’t as good as “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” will never write another word.
A painter who dabs into the orange place on his pallet and thinks she can’t paint unless the painting is Monet-worthy will never paint.
A comedian who can’t be Robin Williams will never walk on-stage.
And so we do what we do.
BUT, what if leaving a legacy is smaller than Apple, Monet, Robin Williams, and smaller than who we believe we are?
What if leaving a legacy means that a sentence we spoke to a child or to a friend lasted through stories and the retelling of them?
You think about the times when your son has thanked you for telling him a story. How your stories make his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins into real people.
You think about the stories you were told that did the same.
You think about legacies, and that maybe your own family’s stories are enough. Not all of us can be Steve Jobs, after all.
Having a home with a garage and my brothers and I not sharing a room is not my father’s legacy. His lesson about cherry trees being more important than money? That’s something I’ve remembered. That’s something I’ll tell my son about.
Maybe, our legacies are left in small ways. Left through stories told to our children and friends and through videos, when we talk about what it feels like to be a mother – a special needs mother.
Maybe, the best thing about leaving a legacy is that it’s ours to leave. Big or small. Most of us aren’t Steve Jobs. And that’s okay.
If, at my funeral, one person tells a story about how I made her laugh, or if my son remembers feeling loved, that’s legacy enough for me.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “I want my legacy to be…”
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