I remember seeing a plaque hanging in an office one time that read, "In a hundred years it may not matter what kind of house I live in, the kind of car I drove, or the amount of money that was in my back account...but it might matter if I made a difference in the life of a child". I knew that was where my legacy would lie.
But it doesn't end there. Our legacy isn't always some sweet little thing we did to help someone. Sadly some leave a tainted bitter legacy for the descendants to have to learn to live with. Bernie Madoff left a history that will follow his name long after the last scoop of dirt is thrown in his grave. His sons will forever carry that cancer on their name, even if they had nothing to do with his sins.
I remember a lady who touched my heart many years ago, back in Gatlinburg, Tn. Her name was Candy Stacey, and she was the cousin of Dolly Parton (but then most natives to that area were). She bared a strong resemblance, with platinum blond hair and ruby red lipstick. She wasn't afraid to wear bold colors and paint her nails to match her lips. But most of all, Candy always had a smile on her face! We worked together selling camping memberships, and one day she was visibly absent from her front desk where she greeted our guests as they entered the waiting room. When she came back in she had a bandage wrapped around her arm, and looked pale and weak. I guess I was one of the few who didn't know that Candy had cancer and was taking chemotherapy. When she came back from the bathroom after emptying her stomach one more time, I asked her why she didn't just go home, to which she laughed and said, "Why honey I can't go home. Someone has to be here to greet these people and get them some coffee, and make them feel at home!"
"Surely they can get someone else. How can you be so cheerful when you feel so bad?" It didn't make sense to me, I would be home, lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself and waiting for someone to wait on me.
"Oh sweetie, I never know when the last time you are going to see me is going to be, and I don't want anyone remembering me looking all sickly and not smiling! It makes people feel better if you smile and have fun with them. That is the way I want to be remembered." And that is the way I will always remember Candy. She went home to be with Jesus a few years later. There must have been thousands she made smile during that time.
This year someone challenged people to find their "word" for the year, to inspire and motivate them throughout the year. Some choose "purpose" and set out to discover their purpose in life. Others chose "serve" and are working on being a better servant for Jesus. I have chosen "legacy". I want to discover my own legacy to leave behind. Will I challenge someone to make a difference in the lives of others? Will I take a missions trip and raise funds to put in wells for clean water for some third world country? Or will I live only for myself? Striving to survive, and forgetting about the effect my life will have on others. A positive difference takes work.
I hope my prayers make a difference in the lives of those I pray for, but that is in private and not for any recognition. I write, and naturally dream of my words touching someone someday. I want to encourage others and pray it inspires them to make a difference in the life of others in a positive way. But there has to be actions to go with our words and prayers. If we meet a man who is hungry but we don't feed them, and only offer to pray for them, our words are just lost in the wind. If we live in a big fancy house and drive an expensive car, but fail to offer a cold drink to the homeless man on the corner we pass every day, we have failed to touch his life...even if we pray for him every day. What good will our fancy treasures do us when we are gone?
A lady named Fran Blakley taught me how to sell timeshare in a real and practical way. She said if she left her jewelry to her only daughter, Debbie, and Debbie decided to take up with some worthless bum, he would probably sell her jewelry before they removed her lifeless body from the hospital. If she left antiques, he would probably have an appraiser out to the house before the funeral. But if she left her memories, Debbie would never lose them. So she took her on a special vacation every year, just the two of them, making memories to last a lifetime. And when she died she was going to leave her timeshare for Debbie to take her own children to exotic places and make memories of their own someday. It was her legacy to her beloved daughter and future grandchildren.
I share all of this with you because someone touched my life this week in a special way, and I realized her legacy has always been to cheer others on to success and keep them encouraged. This girl was a cheerleader when I was in high school, and never stopped once she left those hallowed halls. She lives a healthy active life we all could take lessons from, but more than that she never stopped caring about people. When I shared a couple of weeks ago about receiving my second ticket in a week's time for no inspection stickers (even though I was on my way to get the inspection) that the $230 was going to be a tough blow on my budget, she immediately jumped into that cheerleader skirt and grabbed her check book! I didn't post that as a request, I was just venting! I tried to protest, but she refused to listen...telling me she understood and had been there herself one time. Those words meant more than the check. The day the check arrived was the last day to pay my electric bill...and of course the check just covered that amount! Without her help I never could have covered that bill. I know I am not the only one she has blessed. It just comes naturally for her.
I will forever remember these people, and long after their lives have ended, the stories I have shared with my children will keep their legacies alive.
I hope that someday when my last breath has escaped my lips, that someone will look at their children and smile and say, "I remember her, she ..." and they will tell something that I did that made a difference in their life in a positive way...I want to encourage, bless, and inspire others in the ways these great people have done for me.
One of the greatest legacys ever offered was over 2000 years ago and people are still talking about it. A 33 year old man loved us enough he died for us. He didn't just die, he was beaten beyond recognition, tortured until his life left his body, and ridiculed and stripped naked as they hung him on a cross. He suffered greater pain than we will ever know...because he loved you more than you are capable of understanding. He did it because he wanted you to be forgiven and live forever in Heaven. Would YOU do that for someone else?
What is YOUR legacy? Who's life are YOU touching? Are you offering a drink to the thirsty, or just a prayer? Are you willing to suffer and die for people you don't even know?
We aren't promised forever to leave our mark in this world, so you better get started...