It’s pretty late and I should be heading to bed but something is nagging away at me tonight. My parents are from a small community which means they often run into familiar faces from their past. We can hardly get through grocery shopping without running into so-and-so who went to public school with my mom or that guy who played hockey with my dad back in the day. I kind of like it. It reminds me of that song “Everybody Dies Famous in a Small Town”. Everyone is leaving their legacy. The truth is, don’t we all have the opportunity to do that in one another’s lives- small town or not? Whether we realize the true gravity of it or not, our actions influence each other’s lives every second. Today my feelings were hurt by the guy who was critical of me at work but I also felt warmed by the help and concern of another on a tricky project. We are all milling about in this world effecting each other sometimes without even knowing it.
Recently my parents learned that an old friend had passed away after a battle with liver cancer. Tonight they attended the visitation to pay their respects. They greeted the grieving family members and reconnected with friends from “the old days”. One such friend (we’ll call him Joe) approached my mom proclaiming her maiden name with excitement. She was surprised he remembered. He told her my grandfather had done something so kind and been so caring towards their family that it had contributed largely to the man Joe had become. Wow. This is not the first time we’ve heard this from someone regarding my grandparents. They weren’t famous. They raised 4 children in a small community and they welcomed everyone into their home and to their dinner table. They liked to camp and I have vivid memories of everyone moving their chairs back from the campfire widening the circle to a lopsided oval of chatter and warmth that extended well beyond the strength of the flames. Their pictures are in the countless family albums we treasure and not in magazines and their names are not recognized in households across the globe but they left a legacy. Their kindness had such a profound impact on this world that others are still remembering it years later.
Another story I remember of my grandfather has to do with a young family that had just moved into the campground where my own family spent summers. They were new to the park and fairly quiet so hardly anyone had come to know them. One day the youngest daughter had a terrible allergic reaction and as the family had just an RV, they had no vehicle to drive her to the hospital. My grandfather calmly offered them a ride and made sure the young girl found the help she needed. Later I remember the introductions as my grandpa nudged me forward and encouraged me to make friends with these newcomers. That was about 16 years ago and I’m still friends with them today.
So, as I ponder what direction to take with my life, what my career path will be and what type of impact I want to make on this world, I think it’s important to remind myself that every moment I have the opportunity to leave a legacy that extends far beyond any I’d considered. The great things are in the little moments, the help, the love, the generosity, the sympathy and the care that let us all know we’re actually in this together. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for teaching me life is so much more extraordinary than I’ve let myself experience simply because I felt too small. Thanks for showing me the real meaning of leaving a legacy.