Living Your Legacy

by | Feb 25, 2021 | ShiftHappens

As you will read in our “Changemaker of the Week” blog this week, many of us are thinking of our friend, changemaker, and advisor Paul Talliard who recently passed away. Have you had moments like this that leave you considering the idea of legacy?

When I am overcome with worry, I have a litmus test I often use. I ask myself – “Would this matter to me if I knew I had just a few days left to live?” 

I believe a universal human truth is that we all want to leave something behind when we die; we want to believe that our inimitable existence has worth and meaning beyond our time on this earth. Yet I’ve noticed that, most often, we talk about a “legacy” only after someone has passed away. 

Legacy is not something we leave, but something we live each and every day. Each morning we write the story anew, with a fresh opportunity to make our lives outlast our physical bodies. What will matter in the final estimation? What will be remembered? 

Paradoxically, I believe the “small” things count the most. The stranger you stopped to help, or the child you took time to teach. The voiceless that you spoke for, or the hungry that you fed. In the cosmic math of adding up a life, kindness and service carry exponential weight. 

I think of a song by the artist John Craigie, “Dissect the Bird,” in which he sings:

When the universe feels like it’s against you

Just take a minute to realize all it took to make you

Your parents had to meet, as random as that was

And hang out long enough at least, to make some love

And make a baby, and give it your name

And all your ancestors had to do the same

Exponentially backwards to the start of life

So much had to happen just exactly right

Sparks had to catch, oceans had to freeze

Billions of cells had to survive endless disease

Civilizations had to crumble, wars had to be fought

Bad presidents had to get elected, good presidents had to get shot

People had to leave, hearts had to get broken

People had to die so your eyes could open

The universe is not against you

It went through a lot just to give you a chance

It must have wanted you pretty bad

No pressure, though :) 

You don’t gotta be perfect

You don’t gotta be a saint

Just don’t waste it

This was not a mistake

Our opportunities to be in service are as unique as our lives themselves. Whatever good thing lies in your heart, this is your legacy. If you want to live forever, think small but serve big.