What Is Your Legacy?

(Republished from The Fifth Chapter Blog, original date 10/29/11)

I have finished my Saturday chores. A practice that still evokes my mother busily catching up on cleaning after a week of full time work, and prodding me to do the same. She always told me her mother said, “Do your duties before you play” so I could not go out and play until we were finished! So, I learned to get the chores out of the way.

I can’t say it is a pleasant Saturday memory, but I passed it on to my children as well. Of course I tried to make it more fun. We had a “chore” box. Whoever got started first could choose their job. Also, the chores helped them fill up a bead jar to earn beads for movies. They learned how to get through the fewest chores for the most movie time. For a while, I wasn’t sure they had learned to clean up after themselves, much less clean a house. Then came college and roommates and “Oh, wow, I can’t believe how sloppy other people live.” Voila, they now have cleaning days, or so I hear.

If I were to think about the legacy my mother will leave, the Saturday cleaning day will be an aspect of her legacy. If she had been thinking about legacy planning, I wonder if that would have made her list. I know it would not make mine; but it has already been passed on. And, really what’s not to like about a clean house once in a while?

With the passing of Steve Jobs and Al Davis recently, the type of legacy a person leaves behind rolls around in my mind. I look at the stuff I clean and organize and try to use or give away. None of it says “legacy” to me. Still, I am convinced that even people who are not famous or wealthy can leave a legacy. I know my grandmother did.

Some, like Bernie Madoff will leave a bitter legacy behind. Others, like Steve Jobs, leave a bright and shining world of promise in their legacy. I heard that Steve Jobs chose to fight his pancreatic cancer with holistic method rather than traditional cancer treatment. While he might have regretted that decision, given the odds of surviving this type of cancer, maybe he chose the option to give him the fewest sick days so he could influence the legacy he would leave behind.

Without the pressure of an illness, it is difficult to see how our daily choices really affect what legacy we will leave. But a legacy is built over time; one choice at a time. If I imagine what kind of world I would like to see in the next 50 years, I begin to touch the heart of legacy planning. These are where our hopes and dreams take on a life and become something new in the next generation. We choose our own legacy by living an intentional life; doing what we value; following through on our commitments; and, offering something from our “well of riches” to help others. What we do in the next 5 minutes can change the world. Now, where did I put those reusable grocery bags?

What do you imagine for 50 years in the future? What will you do to influence this vision?

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