“Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs.” – Steve Saint
Our country recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It was also the week that I returned from a trip “home” – the place where I grew up, and the place where I was a young adult, a new wife, and a young mother. Both events launched a series of thoughts about my life and the imprint I will leave on the world. It made me begin to think about my story an ultimately…my legacy.
Rev. King’s influence was life changing – a cultural shift for a nation. He brought about a progressivism and a call for a new way of life. He called for equality in a nonviolent way. In a different but more poignant way, the influence of my family and hometown are a distinct part of me. It is visible in my every day life. My work ethic, my belief systems, my sense of family all come from my valuable experiences throughout my upbringing.
The question for me is, “What, then, at the end of my life, will be my imprint? What will my legacy be?”
Sad to say, in some ways, it will not be good. There are days that I know I’m causing my children and husband undue stress. There are times that I fall into bed in tears over hurtful words I’ve said. There are moments that I’m embarrassed of: the anger, the judgment, the fear. There are times that I have not been a good friend. When I’ve shut down or failed to reach out. Where I haven’t understood the place someone is in and haven’t appreciated their plight. Where I’ve allowed selfishness to interfere with love.
I also know there will be some positive influence that I’ve left too. Moments when I’ve chosen the right words, the right actions. When I’ve acted out of love. When I’ve put myself aside at the precise moment that I should to support another. When I’ve been the better person, swallowed pride, built someone up instead of tearing them down. When laughter has taken the place of tears.
But here’s my truth and my hope: My legacy can be what I want it to be. I get to choose what my story is and the legacy I will create when I am not on this Earth anymore. I get to make that choice on a daily basis and in every moment.
Thank you to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and more importantly, to my family for reminding me of that.