I serve on the board of a non-profit organization that supports humanitarian work in remote parts of the world. One of the places we support are the remote tribal regions of Columbia. The work there was started back in 1961 when a young man named Bruce Olson, at only 19 years of age, dared to go where few others before had gone. As a result of Bruce’s faithful work, there are now schools, hospitals, and a thriving culture. But Bruce is now 80 years old. Who will continue the work he gave the majority of his life to build? Are leaders and leadership systems in place to ensure the work continues?
On a personal level, my sons and I are working on creating a “Welday coat-of-arms” – something that will reflect the values, priorities, and character we stand for. I hope this will be something my grandchildren share with their children, who will share with their children, who will share with their children.
So much of our attention is focused on temporal things. The tyranny of the urgent. What is on our to-do list for the day or the week? We live in a throw-away culture where it’s easier to replace something when it breaks than to craft something designed to last for generations to come.
Of course, technology fuels this. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any sentimental reasons to hold on to my first cell phone that was probably the size of a brick. Goodwill probably has more tube televisions than they can sell or give away as families replaced their bulky CRT units for modern HD flat screens.
And yet, amidst our fast-paced, ever-changing lives, there is something sacred and meaningful about things that last, things that speak to our legacy. Recently my parents have been asking my kids and me what things of theirs would we like to have. Interestingly, the things that mean the most are not the expensive pieces of furniture or tools but rather diplomas, awards, photos, things that reflect the heritage and legacy of a life well-lived. Things that reflect our heritage and what we stand for. That’s legacy.
So what things are you passing on to the next generation? Bill Wilson, a client I served years ago, has given most of his adult life to sharing God’s love with inner-city kids from New York, and training others how to do what he does. He used to say about his work in the city, that “We are planting seeds of trees under whose boughs we will never sit.” That’s investing in legacy.
Amidst all that you need to accomplish today, this month, this year, what are you investing in that will last a lifetime or several lifetimes? What seeds are you sowing that will bear fruit for generations to come?
Give time and intention to developing a legacy that will impact lives far beyond your own.