“I have been journaling for over 25 years,” said Mike, a long-time friend. “I want my writings to be available to future generations. Who knows how what I wrote might help them in some way.”
“It sounds like you are concerned about your legacy,” I observed.
Mike is now in his late seventies. I have never heard him talk like this. He’s been retired for over 20 and is enjoying life. Now, as he gets to the end of his life, these thoughts on his life legacy are creeping in on him.
“What do you think?” he asked.
I said, “I don’t think any of this matters. I believe when you die, you’re gone. People may remember you for a while or from time to time, but the world’s memory fades quickly. You may think your life was significant, but once you are dead and gone, the world fills your void instantly.”
“That’s a pretty bleak way of looking at one’s life’s work,” he said.
This conversation would not leave me. I kept thinking about what Mike said and my response.
Then it hit me.
My legacy is now.
I mean right now.
It is what I am writing right now.
The person I’m meeting with right now.
The speech I’m giving right now.
Legacy isn’t something I leave behind as a life’s work. My legacy is the people I’m influencing through the life I’m living. The belief system I embrace. The principles I practice. The ideas I share.
The man I am, good and bad.
My legacy is how I impact my family, my community, my ministry, and my work. It is not the fruit of my work I leave behind. It is what these people take forward from my interactions with them, how I have influenced them.
How I have bent the arc of the universe for these few people.
How what I said or how I served them changed them just a little bit.
How they adopted some of what I have said or done as part of their character and behavior.
And after I am gone, how they then carry that little bit of me forward in their daily interactions with their family, their community, their ministry, and their work.
This is my legacy.
It is not visible. It is hidden and embedded in the people I interact with. It lives in them each and every day. From time to time I might get some credit or mention.
But over time, not so much.
Regardless, the legacy is still there, deeply rooted in the character of the people I touched and the people they touch.
My final thought.
To build my legacy, I must stay involved with people. Loving them. Serving them. Sharing Christ with them. Living in the now with an eye toward eternity.