It must be the season. My mailbox is stuffed with requests for charitable donations. An Indian school in the Southwest sends pictures of their lovely children with big dark eyes pleading for help. Another cause offers pictures of hungry children in Latin America, desperate for just a few of my dollars. A religious order asks for my support as they build new facilities to support the influx of new novitiates. An environmental group gives me pictures of gloom and doom if I don’t send money to save the rain forests. A university needs my money to give others the educational opportunities I had. All of these groups are asking for my financial help. In exchange, they promise their work will be my legacy.
We all want to feel we will leave an important legacy behind when we pass from this world to the next. Some have the resources to make their legacy very public. A building will bear their name. A scholarship will memorialize their generosity. A bronze plaque will call attention to their contributions. For most of us, our legacy is much more subtle. As a writer, I think about the possibility my work will be forever listed in the catalog of the local public library. More than likely, it will be available for only a few years. The public will lose interest. I will be relegated to an obscure list of once published but now out of print authors.
A more important legacy is the positive influences I have on others. Some are initially small. An act of kindness to a stranger can have a large ripple effect. My smile and kind words to the grocery store cashier may be just the encouragement she needs to keep her cool when a difficult customer comes her way in another hour or two.
Perhaps my greatest legacy is my children. I can do my best to be a positive influence on the world around me. However, if I raise my children to seek to do the same how much greater and longer lasting is my positive effect on the world. This was brought home this week when I attended the funeral of a woman I had the privilege of knowing through my role as a soccer mom. The church was full of family and friends. We had all been touched by her positive and loving demeanor. We now grieve the loss of her personal presence. However, it is clear her spirit and values continue through her four children. She left a beautiful, lasting, incomparable legacy.
I am sure I will respond to some of the solicitations in my mailbox. However, I will not do it because I want the title of benefactor. I do not need buildings, scholarships or plaques with my name. I want my legacy to be acts of generosity, kindness, and compassion done as a witness to my Faith. I pray I can inspire the same from my children. And they will someday inspire the same from theirs. A legacy will live on.