Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Is Your Legacy?

I love when I get emails from people with whom I have connected. Just recently I opened my email and discovered an email from a new friend from Toronto, someone I met on my recent trip and who provided a great deal of wisdom about the difference between crises and tempests, and how to tell which one exists in your teapot.

I thought my new friend would be pleased with what I had written as I hoped it had captured the essence of the wise words he said to me - and so I was a bit surprised when his first words in the email were:

Young lady, you have disappointed me.

Ack, I thought, had I offended him? Had I misrepresented what he said, misinterpreted his words? But he followed it with this:

Your recent article was very nice but you left out the most important thing I said. Do you remember I asked you about your legacy?

Ack. Indeed I had left out a very important part of the conversation. You see we had been discussing the current states of our communities, and the future - and he had asked what I wanted my legacy to be.

He didn't mean my financial legacy, but what I wanted to be remembered for after I had left this community in whatever form that leaving one day takes. He wanted to know how I wanted to be remembered by those I touched - in fact he suggested every single person should ask themselves about their legacy.

Do you want to be remembered as someone who was persistently negative or argumentative, or as someone who saw issues and worked towards solutions even when it was difficult? Do you want to be recalled as someone who worked to improve the community for others, or as someone who did nothing except the bare minimum required to exist? Do you want to be remembered for the good you did, the things you built and changed, the ways you contributed? Then, my friend suggested, you have to do something because legacies are not built on doing nothing. He suggested those who do nothing leave no legacy behind, while those who are negative or difficult leave a legacy others would rather forget.

And he had another point, too. He suggested we each need to worry about our own legacy, and not that of others. He suggested that if every person looked at their own actions - in an honest and reflective way, through a lens of objectivity - the world would be a better place because they would see the legacy they are building. He said far too many people worry about the legacy being left by others - politicians, athletes, celebrities, etc - and far too little about their own legacy. The legacy did not have to be big and grandiose, as perhaps it would only be remembered by a small number of people, he said - what mattered was not how many remembered you, but how.

It was a sobering email, and he was, of course, quite completely right in that I had forgotten this part of our conversation and had been so focused on the legacy of others - the tempest in the teapot - that I had stopped thinking about my own. Once again his wisdom re-centred me and started me thinking about my own legacy, and how I want the others in my world, whomever I touch in my life, to remember me.

I know this too - my new friend has left a powerful legacy in my life, and has now touched the lives of those who read this blog as through me his wise words have reached an entirely new group of people. That, my friends, is one helluva legacy.

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