In a modern era where the struggle to survive has been replaced with a struggle to achieve, the simple but important act of passing our surname to our children seems an insufficient legacy when compared to the large and expensive monuments named for rich industrialists, or scientific discoveries attributed to great scientific minds.
Whether we are willing to admit it, being respected and feeling important are as significant as being wanted and loved. Likewise, as much as we want to be respected in life, we want to be remembered fondly in death.
Great business men like Bill Gates and John D. Rockefeller spent the first half of their lives amassing large amounts of money and the second half of their lives giving it away to charities. These philanthropic gifts of genuine generosity are seasoned with a hint of historical self-aggrandizement.
For people of lesser financial means or scientific ingenuity, the chance of having a wing of a hospital named in honour of them remains small. But, this should not discourage anyone from trying to make a lasting difference in our world, or revel in the contributions they have made to these ends.
A practical look at our lives demonstrates we are leaving a legacy that celebrates many of our best accomplishments and in fact glorifies the wishes and accomplishments of every generation before us.
A simple wish
The chance of obtaining a fruitful legacy starts with a simple aspiration. This is a wish that our children experience a life that is richer, more fulfilling, and happier than any generation before.
For centuries, the certainty of passing a better life to the next generation was always in question.
Many times, the advantages of the modern age were limited to the rich and powerful. And, while I believe that people are ultimately good, influence over society tended to rest with a minority of citizens whose view of the world and the common masses, was tainted by the prejudices and distrusts common in the 19th and 20th century.
For instance, in the depths of the depression, many affluent American’s toyed with the idea of installing a business friendly dictator to abolish what they considered a failing democratic system.
Luckily, we now live in an era where technology grants the average person the power to voice their concerns and influence positive change.
We live in a time where a simple idea has the potential to become a global force in a matter of days, if not hours.
The greatest contribution
We might be overlooking the contributions we are making, and the effects these contributions will have on centuries to come.
Serving as an example of peace, mindfulness, and acceptance will define our era if we are willing to contribute to these ideas. Even if we fail to achieve these lofty ideals, the fact that we are optimistically trying to get over our own shortcomings might be enough to inspire our children to do the same.
Take a moment to ask yourself if you are proud of how you are living your life, and whether or not you are happy with your conduct as a citizen, friend and family member.
We can always be more giving, more forgiving and more accepting, but, more importantly we need to be satisfied and love the person we are right now.
Would it be enough to know?
- That you are a good parent and that you are raising children that are less resentful, more fulfilled and happier than you were, or maybe even are.
- That you have been kind to people and given friends, family, and strangers your time and attention.
- That you have made life a little more bearable for people.
- That you made lasting connections with people and animals, and demonstrate your affection for them.
- That you gave someone a reassuring smile, even when you yourself were unsure of the situation.
- That we may have not directly contributed to world peace, but we did contribute to peace at home.
- That we are able to connect with another person by sharing a joke, commiserating over a shared interest or remembering scenes from a favourite movie.
Everything begins and ends at a micro level. The contribution we make at this level has the potential to make the biggest difference in a person’s life and ultimately future generations.
Too hard on ourselves
Shame should not be the primary motivator to become better individuals. Yes, we can be materialistic, vain, and selfish, but those qualities do not define us.
Seeking change and wanting to become a better person and spurn a constructive change in the world needs to come from a positive place
In the end, all we can do it celebrate our efforts to become better people and be proud of the good we bring to this world no matter how insignificant we might think it is.
Progress is a combination of optimism and faith, and the start of a lasting legacy.
On the most important level, making connections with others, being a positive influence on our children, and being optimistic about the future, is the greatest legacy anyone can leave.
Image Courtesy Leonid Mamchenkov - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mamchenkov/
This land, this water, this air, this planet - this is our legacy to our young.