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.