“At some point in our lives, it should become less about our personal accomplishments and accolades and more about the legacy we leave behind us.” I said this to a dear friend of mine a couple of years ago.
Some may consider their legacy as simply the legacy their generation left. My friend did. She provided an answer that surprised me — I will discuss that later, in Part 2.
I was talking more about a personal legacy. I think of it sort of like the wake behind a motorboat. How did your passing-through change the water? Did you leave things better than you found them? Are you leaving people better than you found them? Were you able to fight the right fires and ride the right waves?
It’s hard to decide what your legacy should be. Should you be focused on the political issue of the era – picketing, sitting in, and marching? Should you be creating the next big charity to change the world? Maybe you should focus locally on the community within arm’s reach by sitting on city commissions and volunteering? Or perhaps you should you focus on the individuals close to you – encourage, mentor, and guide them to become their best selves?
Its not that I can’t start a great charity. I have some pretty good ideas. It’s not that I am blind to the ways my city or nation could be improved. I haven’t lost hope yet.
It’s just that every time I think of those things, I am suddenly interrupted and reminded of the three individuals whom I love the most. I am reminded of how much I hope and pray and work for them. I am reminded of the diverse class of teenagers I teach in Sunday School, some of whom I’ve known over half their lives.
Most of all, I am reminded that if the three loves of my life or those obnoxious and humorous teens were to falter or stumble or fail, I would take it personally. I would feel like I had failed; that there would be no consolation. I could build thousands of homes for the homeless, but it would not make up for the loss of one of those youth or my family at home. Basically, it reminds me to tread carefully, keep my priorities straight, and maintain balance in my life — to only do that which I can, and at a pace that I can maintain.
My husband and I served as adult leaders in the youth programs at church when we were newlyweds. We have watched those kids grow up and make key decisions in their lives. We ache for every lost testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. With every teen pregnancy, “failure to launch”, and poor choice, we wonder what more we could have done.
In some cases, the kids that had the toughest challenges made it through just fine while siblings in the same household haven’t thrived in the least. In others, everything was setup for them to succeed and they find something small, some perceived hypocrisy in their parents in order to justify turning their backs on everything they know. There’s absolutely no telling some days how each of them will turn out or whether they will come back. Scares the heck out of me when I think of my own two children.
It is admirable to leave a legacy. It is even more admirable to leave a great, expansive, numerically impressive legacy. But there are some legacies (and we can each have multiple) that should be more personal and tailored than others. Yes, people need homes, fresh water, and nutritional food. However, everyone can also benefit from a Sunday School teacher who loves them and teaches them honestly. Every husband and child benefits from a good woman who encourages her family to grow strong, wise, and faithful — and there is no way to quantify that numerically.
In the eternal words of King Benjamin,
“And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite [this woman] should run faster than [s]he has strength. And again, it is expedient that [s]he should be diligent, that thereby [s]he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order [at home, at work, at church, and abroad].” (Mosiah 4:27)
I can leave the best legacy when I remember what I value most and maintain balance in my life. When I am sacrificing for the people and the issues I love the most, I will leave the best legacy possible.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.