I have not seen most of my high school friends since…. well, high school. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age, but when I graduated, I went off to university, then got married and then moved west to Alberta. This was in the days before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even email. I recall spending time on Sunday afternoons writing letters to my parents. It would have been unheard of to call a friend. Long distance?! I think not!
So, when I heard about the reunion, and that we could make it fit into our plans for our trip by scheduling one extra stop, I began to get very excited. I loved my high school days. I went to what I thought was a great school, I had great teachers and even greater friends. High school felt like a place of belonging for me. I could be involved in things I loved (think math club and student council) and it was there that I found out that University could be a possibility for me, even though no one in my family had ever gone.
As the weeks to the reunion approached I began to try to remember people’s names. I resurrected old yearbooks chatted to my friend Jane recalling old memories. We could think of funny events that had happened to people and we would howl in laughter. I connected via Facebook to former classmates and looked with trepidation at their pictures – wondering if I would recognize them. Perhaps more honestly, I wondered if they might still know me. It turns out, many of them do. And that got me to thinking about the idea of legacy.
Each of these people who were part of my life, each of these people who were part of a narrative that I think about now, had a part to play in my life. In some small way, they shaped me. And even though I have not thought about them for years, they did have an impact on my life.
This has been a sobering thought for me. If each of these people has had an impact on me, then I must examine the possibility that I too, have had some impact on them. And on every other person that I have had an interaction with in my life. This, is called Legacy.
I used to think about legacy as kind of a nostalgic look back on life and a noticing of the good things we brought to this earth. If you read about someone who has died you will often read that they left a great legacy. And then their accomplishments and achievements are written. Having attended this reunion these past two days, I have changed my idea about legacy.
I now believe that every single interaction I have had, every single effort I have given, every single accomplishment and failure I have managed are part of my legacy. I cannot pretend that my legacy is only the ‘softened’ view I have of the good things I have done. I recognize that I have not been perfect. I hope that I was kind to people in high school – I know that however I was, is part of my legacy. I hope that when I was given chances to be brave that I took them more often than I did not, for this too is part of my legacy. I hope that I have uttered more words of kindness and of encouragement than of criticism and doom. I hope I have stood up for others when they could not stand up for themselves. I hope I followed my dreams. These are all parts of legacy.
As I move into the next forty years of my life, I will have a chance to create more of my legacy. The more times I choose to be brave, kind, thoughtful, inclusive, interesting, adventuresome, loving and accomplished will tip the balance of my legacy to the better. The good thing is that it is not too late to change the legacy we wish to leave.
I had such fun seeing old friends, anew. I am more grateful than ever for the gifts they gave me – even though, at the time, they likely had no idea they were impacting my life. That’s the way it is with legacy. You create it while you are busy living.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What legacy am I creating?’
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