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Leave A Personal Legacy



Famous people with famous legacies

Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) inspired the nation with his Gettysburg Address and helped to bring about the abolishment of slavery.

Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) campaigned for justice and freedom in his native South Africa. He spent 20 years in jail for his opposition to apartheid. On his release he healed the wounds of apartheid by his magnanimous attitude to his former political enemies.

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) awarded a Nobel Prize for both Chemistry and Physics. Her discoveries with radiation helped advance medical science. Also, her achievements were even more remarkable at a time when few women gained education.

Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) the most influential leader of the non-violent civil rights movement, inspired millions of people, black and white, to aspire for a more equal society.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 -– 1519) – One of the greatest minds in human history. It is wildly believed that da Vinci was  centuries ahead of scientific discovery. He furthered advancement in anatomy, astronomy, physics, science and the arts.

Mother Teresa (1910 – 1997) – Lived a life of poverty to try to improve the conditions of others. Her devotion and compassion inspired the lives of many people.

Jane Goodall (1934 – ) – Made ground-breaking study into the behavior of chimpanzees. Goodall became a noted campaigner and activist for environmental protection and kindness to animals.

Mozart – A musical genius whose talents give joy to millions of people.

Rumi – Sufi poet. His mystical poetry continues its universal appeal.

Steve Jobs – Charismatic founder of Apple. Helped create new standards of design in technology.

These famous people changed the world at their time of life, and their legacy lives on.

We need not be political or social heroes, gifted in the arts and sciences, or spiritual leaders to leave behind an enduring legacy.

The thing about personal legacies is often we don’t know we’ve left one. Good or bad.

A kind gesture, an encouraging word, a thoughtful gift; human exchanges we encounter throughout our lives make us want to be better people. Conversely, a person who is angry, cheats, lies, proves irresponsible again and again, any kind of destructive behavior…leaves us feeling something else altogether. Both are memorable legacies.

I vote for kind and gentle legacies.

The father who watches his daughter change a tire under his direction teaches her self-sufficiency.

The mother who rehearses “the first dance” with her son demonstrates the importance of tenderness and romance.

A coach who plays everyone on the bench defines what it means to be a player on his team.

The boss who encourages employees understands they are the future of the organization.

The middle-school math teacher who stays after school to tutor a struggling child and just maybe, huh? discovers the child’s obsession with taking pictures of animals. That child learns to believe that he possesses special talents and gifts (okay, not Algebra!), and goes on to a successful career as a National Geographic photographer.

These simple moments, however fleeting and benign, have the ability to leave a positive mark and endure a lifetime and beyond. Sometimes a legacy is just being the right person in the right place at the right time to change or alter or turn someone’s life in new or better direction. For this, you will be remembered as THE person who influenced a life.

Many of the people in our lives exit this world without awards and ribbons. Yet their names more indelible than if they were etched in stone across some alumni building. We fondly remember the ones who left their great legacy on us — parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, mentors, etc. — for their humanity and spirit. Side note: Those of us with parents or grandparents who emigrated to the United States at great personal sacrifice, we owe a debt of gratitude. We must tell and record their stories for the next generation. With any luck, the histories and legacies we tell bare some semblance to the truth!

Part of my writing journey is expressly for my children. Ideas and ideals that were passed to me from people way smarter and wiser than I’ll ever be. The legacy we leave need not be worthy of a statue in our honor or biographical documentary. By doing our best job to not f-k up in this world is a good enough legacy. But to be a regular person who can be an extraordinary influence on our small personal tribe is more than good enough.


Original graphic & quote: Stephanie DelTorchio


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