Leaving a Legacy [Even if You’re Not Famous], by Jillian Stone

Jillian StoneIt’s easy to leave a legacy when you’re famous.  Good or bad, when you’re famous it’s evitable that you’ll leave some sort of mark within your area of influence. But whether you’re famous or not, your life has touched other people’s lives in some way. No matter who you are or where you’ve been placed in society, in one way or another you have made and will continue to make an impression on someone. Your life matters! Sometimes the most seemingly insignificant act of kindness can deeply touch someone’s heart.

The people who impacted me the most are those who left their comfort zone and actually invested time with me. For example, the people who sat with me after my husband died and were available just to listen.  They didn’t necessarily have to provide any words of comfort; but they were there. Some lovingly performed acts of service when I didn’t have the strength to do even ordinary tasks. There are the people I can share beautiful stories about, because of their simple acts of kindness had a great impact on me.

One simple act of kindness I will never forget was the act of a friend bringing me, of all things, a can opener. One day in December, just two weeks after my father died, I fell on the ice and broke my wrist in two places. This was my first broken bone in my life and I was a terrible, terrible patient. I had zero tolerance for the cast and actually had it sliced open because it was too tight to the point of causing me to feel claustrophobic. I was miserable.

Living alone and trying to manage such simple daily activities as pulling up my socks, shoveling the snow, styling my hair, or simply opening a can of cat food were quite exasperating for me. I was also dealing with the challenges of managing the financial affairs for my mother who had the early stages of Alzheimers, getting tax documents prepared for the end of the year and running a business. These are all stressful things in their own right without the added annoyance and pain of a broken wrist.

One day, while my frustrations were at an all-time high, there came a knock on my door. There was my best friend, Karen, at the door with a gift…a battery operated can opener! It was like being parched in the desert and suddenly seeing a refreshing body of ice blue water. It was an amazing gadget! You simply put it on the top of the can and pushed a button and it whirled all around the top of the can cutting it open and stopping on its own when the job was done. What joy! That gift eliminated all the pain and struggle of simply opening a can which enabled both me and my cat to eat.

Unless you’ve been in my position you are probably unable to imagine the relief it was to have one less thing to struggle with. Karen also brought me meals every other day and styled my hair for me if I had to leave the house. I will always have this story to tell about Karen who, through simple acts of kindness, has created a legacy for herself in my life.  She will always be the one who left her comfort zone to help a friend in need; not just a onetime act of kindness but she and her husband remain a continual source of assistance to me when I need it. What a blessing they are to me. Karen has a servant’s heart and that will be her legacy.

What will people say about you? What will people say about me? I don’t know. But I hope to be able to do something during my lifetime to make a small contribution in the lives of people who knew me even if it’s as simple as giving a friend a can opener.

I challenge you, as I challenge myself to live intentionally. Without living your life intentionally you may one day find yourself at the end of your journey without having become the person you intended to become. Take some time to envision the kind of person you would like to become then intentionally make decisions that will give you that result. Here are some ideas that might help you get started in making a difference in someone’s life.  Click here for a visual representation of creating a legacy.

The 5 E’s for Leaving a Legacy

Encourage

If there is one thing people need as they go through life its encouragement. Learn to find ways to encourage those you meet on your path. Find something good to praise them for or help them look at a negative situation in a more positive way. Don’t be phony about it, but there are few things in life that can’t somehow be turned into a positive.

For example, smile at someone when you pass them on the street. In the grocery store, say hello to the person behind you in line. Invest your life into another person’s life. If discussing someone in a conversation focus on positive things about that person and avoid critical statements. Don’t allow negative talk to be part of your conversation and you will find that you are not only encouraging others but you are also encouraging yourself. Result: You will become known as someone who uplifts others and never has a negative word to say about anyone.

Enlist

Consider becoming a volunteer. There are so many organizations that are in desperate need of volunteers. Nonprofit organizations run on a shoe string and are overjoyed when someone offers to volunteer to help them. By becoming a volunteer you have the opportunity to help not only the organization but those who are helped by the organization. And you will be surprised how great it makes you feel. Result: You will become known as a helper; a caring person who thinks of others first.

Envision

Consider life in general and how you can make a difference. What do you see wrong in society that you can help make right? Can you show someone in your family or within your area of influence where their gifts are and how they can further develop them to reach their greatest potential? Is there a need in your community or church for which you can create an action plan to meet that need? Is there a need somewhere within your community where you can envision change and volunteer to help make that change a reality? Result: You will become known as someone who is a leader or a visionary.

Empower

Teach people how to be the very best they can be. Invest time with someone who is struggling to find a job and show them how they can present themselves in a positive way. Or instruct someone how to care for themselves so they can feel more self-sufficient and less dependent on others. Help someone who struggles with depression learn how to affirm themselves and develop a right perspective of how they worthy they are as a human being. Result: You will become known as a person who uses their knowledge to strengthen and help others to become the best they can be.

Empathy

Listen to people; put yourself in their place. Develop an ability to understand what they are feeling or what they are struggling with. The whole world is struggling with something. One person’s pain might not affect another person…but all people struggle with something as we all walk through life. Not all people experience the same degree of suffering, but to one degree or another we all suffer. So consider developing skills that will enable you to care about what others go through. Not everyone has the natural ability to be empathic but it can be developed. And if you have that ability then develop it to the max and become a person known for that quality. Result: You will become known as a person who is sensitive and caring and always willing to listen.

“Live today the way you want to be remembered tomorrow.” 
― Dillon Burroughs