My maternal grandmother lived in a small town in Iowa. She wore curlers in her hair at night and didn’t leave the house without lipstick. Just thinking about her lasagna makes my mouth water instantly. She went to church every Sunday without fail. As one particular story goes, she woke one winter morning to find that snow had fallen overnight. Her driveway had yet to be shoveled and was covered in snow and ice.
But it was Sunday. So, despite the dangerous conditions (and requests from her children to stay home in bad weather), she set off for church. A neighbor noticed Grandma carefully navigating her steep driveway with her walker – while wearing heels! When he ran over to help, a grin spread across her face and she looked up at him saying, “Don’t tell my kids.”
Her legacy of love for her family and her church was all right there, wrapped up in a 90 year old, 4’11” bundle of spunk.
This is how I remember her. She, along with many of my relatives, left a legacy of service, love, and commitment.
Spreading Happiness to Strangers
As I think about legacies, my mind easily revives another memory. There was a man who lived in the same mid-sized Texas town where my husband and I grew up. One afternoon, he purchased some items at the grocery store where my husband (at the time a high school senior) was working. After a short conversation at the check-out line, the man offered my husband a job on the spot. He offered him the opportunity to work at his store anytime he wanted when he came home from college in the summertime. It made my husband’s day.
That same man also used to frequent the frozen yogurt shop I worked at. We would all smile when he and his wife came into the store, because we knew things were about to get a lot more lively. He always ordered the same thing, making jokes throughout the process.
One evening he stood by the register waiting to pay, and we noticed he had used his finger to draw a smiley face in the yogurt piled high on his waffle cone. His mischievous eyes twinkled, waiting for the three teenage girls behind the counter to discover what he had done. And once we did, we immediately dissolved into laughter.
That sweet man went around town bringing joy to others simply by being himself. This was his legacy. At least it’s what I, a stranger, remember of him. I can only imagine the stories his family can tell!
Reflecting on Life
I’ve been thinking about legacies lately. Maybe this is just one of the perks that come with being in the “middle” stages of life. You find yourself being reflective and contemplative as you look back at your life, while simultaneously looking ahead at all you still want to accomplish.
While it’s true that I do enjoy pondering less important, everyday thoughts like, “Why is it so difficult to keep a pair of socks together once they’ve been through the wash?!” (But seriously. They went IN the wash together. Why don’t they come OUT as a pair, too!? I’m constantly looking for missing socks!)
I like to keep things balanced by also wrestling with the occasional weighty topic.
It tends to help me center myself, check in, and keep my focus on what’s truly important in life.
Thinking about my legacy feels like just the right amount of heavy. The weight of its importance wins my attention, but the excitement of actually being the only one who can create it is what launches it to the current forefront of my mind.
What is a Legacy
There are many ways to define a legacy. One example is, “Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”
So basically, your legacy is like a trail of breadcrumbs you leave behind to help guide others along their own life’s journey, and it will hopefully lead them to a life well lived. We’re all building our own legacies at this very minute. It’s up to us to decide what kind of legacy we will leave for those we love. What will pour out of us to fill the hearts and minds of those we hold dear?
I’ll admit that, looking back on my 40ish years of life, I’ve certainly left a few moldy, stale breadcrumbs along my path that even a starving, weary traveler would turn their nose up at.
Selfishness, greediness, and negativity, oh my!
But part of journeying this life is not only giving grace to others, but extending that same grace to ourselves. So when we mess it up, and we find ourselves exhibiting characteristics we don’t necessarily want to pass down, there’s good news! As long as we are breathing, we have an opportunity to work on changing the things we don’t like. The legacy we are currently building is a constant work in progress. This article reminds us that we are all on an ongoing journey.
Perfection is Not Your Legacy
We have one life to live, and one life to be able to impact others. We leave our fingerprints on the hearts of all those we encounter in this life. From our family and friends, our colleagues, and even the cashier at Costco.
The good news is, you don’t have to be the model of perfection to leave a positive legacy. And honestly? Don’t even attempt perfection. Instead, demonstrate love through grace, especially for yourself. When I think back to the people who have left the greatest impact on my life, I don’t immediately think of all the ways they were perfect. Just the opposite. It was in their vulnerability, perseverance, and striving to be the best version of themselves that made the greatest impact.
What can we do now to ensure the legacy we want to leave later?
Our legacy is made up of a combination of our failures, stumbles, struggles, and successes. It’s also how we respond in the midst of all of them.
Your legacy is the aftershock felt by others, potentially for generations to come, by simply living your life, as only you can live it.
If you’re reading this, I’ll make the assumption that you’re still alive and breathing. That’s great because it means you’re not finished yet! There’s time to continue building the legacy you dream of leaving for those you love.
I want to always be reflective on how my legacy is unfolding. I don’t want to lose any more time before making an impact on others. Writing is simply one way I can do that, but it is also done in my daily encounters with friends, family, and even strangers.
How can you leave an example for your children, neighbors, coworkers?
Give sound advice.
Be passionate about a cause.
Prioritize family time.
Live by example.
The list is truly endless. Live, love, and serve, my friends. This is simply it. Do these things in whatever way you feel called to, in order to share those gifts with those you love and to the world.
What do you want your legacy to be?
We are all still working on becoming who we want to be. Our experiences and influences are simply a recipe we leave for the world for a life well lived. A little brokenness goes perfectly paired with a heaping serving of grace. We all have a collection of ingredients that make up our life. The way we combine the ingredients is up to us.
Will we do great things in life? Absolutely! Will we blow it multiple times and have to start again? Without a doubt. But the mess is part of our legacy, too. Lean into the mess, and let it be part of your story. It all counts.
What legacy are you building? Thankfully, there is still plenty of time to create it.
And hopefully you won’t spend too much of that time looking for missing socks.