Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, described the idea of legacy by saying,
Everyone must leave behind something when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.
I think the way Ray Bradbury discussed the topic of legacy is so profound and beautiful. But it is also flawed. This definition suggests that, to leave a legacy, one must create a tangible difference to which people can look to see that person’s spirit after he is gone. While creation can be one form of legacy, I believe the concept of legacy goes beyond what can be seen to include values and principles passed down from generation to generation.
In today’s world I believe there is a lot of pressure to do something that will make you memorable. Everyone is looking for the change he can make that will cause future generations to remember his name. A lot of the times people believe that there has to be a physical thing that people can view or touch or experience, when legacies could also be conceptual. These legacies could be more concrete like a theory or law, or more abstract like a feeling or a set of values.
Last week, we lost my great-grandmother. This was the second great-grandmother that I was able to know well during my lifetime. Both women left a legacy behind that continues to influence the way in which I conduct myself. This is what I want for my life. While I would love to leave behind a tangible representation of my existence, it is more important to me to leave a legacy of love and kindness. I want people to be inspired by my life and to continue my legacy of giving back to the nonprofit community and trying to better the world. I want people to think that I was a good person. Because, as we know, legacies are not always a positive thing. If I can do my part to leave this world at least slightly better than I found it, I will think that my life was very successful.
So what steps can I take to ensure a legacy of good deeds and love for all mankind? Well, first I need to make sure that that is how I am living my life currently. A legacy does not come from the way in which you conduct yourself in your final moments; it is built of a lifetime. I also must make sure that I am spreading this message to those with whom I come in contact because I will not be here after I die to share my legacy. Lastly, I must continuously learn and grow in the area in which I work. Working with nonprofits, you either remain continuously inspired by the good work around you, or you become numb to the hardships that still exist in this world. Every day I have to make a choice to choose hope and to believe that things can be better. All of this will help me establish the kind of legacy I want to leave behind.