“The mass of men worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there a great unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your actions today will have far-reaching effects on those who outlive you and those you will never meet. Your kids, your grandkids, their grandkids.
What you do today, in this moment, matters.
A Broken World
In so many ways we’ve been left a broken world by those before us:
- insurmountable national debt
- choking pollution
- gross inequalities
- blatant injustice
Do you think this has been on purpose? That our forefathers sat around a dimly-lit room suggesting they make life difficult for their great-great-grandchildren?
But what they failed to see or failed to care about was that their actions had far-reaching impact.
Let’s not repeat this.
My Mother’s Legacy.
Recently I received an email from a reader, Jane*.
Her mother recently passed away and Jane, an only child, had the task of clearing out the family home before it was sold.
She wrote to me so completely overwhelmed with the job, unable to start. Unable to make a single decision about this house full of stuff. Unable to remove her mother’s memory from the decisions she needed to make.
“How do I even begin? None of the stuff here means anything to me, but it obviously did to my mum. How can I tell what needs keeping and what can be thrown away?”
Unfortunately for Jane, her legacy had already being passed on. Her mother’s death had sealed it. She had no say in it. She simply had to spend weeks of her life – weeks away from her husband and kids, from her friends and her work – dealing with the legacy.
Do you think her mother would have wanted that?
No. By all accounts, her mother was a wonderful woman. A great provider, a gentle spirit with a streak of wicked humour.
But Jane’s mum simply didn’t consider that her actions – keeping a house full of old stuff – would one day hold consequences for her much-loved daughter.
She just didn’t consider it.
*Jane is not her real name.
What Legacy Will You Leave Behind?
No-one enjoys considering their own death. But just for a moment, just one uncomfortable moment, ask yourself:
If you died tomorrow, what legacy would your loved ones have in your place?
- Cupboards and boxes and sheds full of useless stuff for them to sort through?
- Debt for them to repay?
- Years of paperwork for them to make sense of?
- Decades of keepsakes and knick-knacks that lost their significance under a thick layer of dust?
- Memories of hectic weekends, multiple social engagements and television dinners?
I know my family would receive a legacy of disorganised papers, memories of me being “too busy” to push them on the swing and a fondness for staying home – even when the weather is beautiful outside.
Do you know what we can leave behind instead?
- Years of fond memories – playing with your kids, snuggling with your partner, laughing with your friends.
- The gift of self-assurance and inner-strength that comes from knowing they were loved.
- Hearts full of experiences – from travel, to people, places and culture.
- Savings to help them establish a secure home as adults.
- A compassionate heart.
- Depth of character.
And if you let your mind expand beyond your loved ones, you could leave behind:
A world that values experiences over stuff.
A world that values justice over injustice.
A world that values love over hate.
A world that values compassion over greed.
Can you imagine the world our great-great-great grandkids might live in if we left that legacy?
I know it sounds fanciful. Naive even. But it begins somewhere. Why not with me?
Why not with you?