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Answering a very hard question: What would I like my legacy to be?


By Dan Butcher

One of my children recently asked me what I would like for my legacy to be when I pass on from this earth. I really had to think long and hard on this one.

Here is my response.

For a long time, I never thought I was worthy of a legacy.

I think that legacies are rooted in values and beliefs. Values and beliefs come from many different influences in our lives.

As we age and grow, other influences begin to play a role, that of friendships, books, new learnings, and eventually, if one is lucky enough, that of a partner. So values and beliefs shift and I’m no different than many of you in that mine have shifted since I was young, and I hope that continues throughout my entire life. I think the more you learn and grow, the more you should allow your values and beliefs to shift.

Regardless of what we spend our money on, the people we encounter, or the ways we use our days, we are leaving a record of our time here. When everything is said and done, our lives will leave an impression.

People will remember the impact we had on them or the memories they have with us. One way or another, our stories will be told. My mind is plagued with this idea. This idea that my life is a series of overlapping events intermingling with other people’s overlapping events. There is such a grand scale to it all; the thought that I may say something today that will have repercussions one, ten, thirty years from now. There is an overwhelming power but also an indescribable responsibility in that. The thought that I can have that much influence on another person’s life is humbling.

We can literally redirect other people’s lives with a word or an action.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

Most of us are terrified of the things that lie inside of us. We are afraid to write that book or sing that song or volunteer that time because somewhere in the course of our time here we were conditioned to either be afraid that we don’t have the talent or the right to stand out. Williamson goes on to write, “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” How we live our lives is incredibly important. Think about the people that have inspired you. We are a product of the people who’s paths we have come in to contact with. We will never know the impact that a kind word or action will have on people.

I can look back now at different Random Acts of Kindness that still leave an impression to this day. So let me give you …. Ways that can positively affect the legacy you leave behind.

Look at people as people. Often times in the hustle and bustle of life we get so focused on the ever increasing lists of things we have to do that we don’t take time to interact with the people around us. One thing I have to constantly remind myself of is that with as crazy and hectic as my life is, so is so many people’s lives that I see every day. Take the time to say something nice to that barista. Hold that door open for the person behind you. Help that lady put those bags in her car.

It is so easy to only see people as a means to an end, but consciously reminding ourselves that they are fighting their own battles helps to make us that much more sensitive to those around us.

Remember that you were born to create. We all have something we are passionate about. For some it is painting, others it is construction, and yet others it is just making places for people to come and feel safe. So many times we think that to be creative we have to be making something physical.

We think we have to be writing a book or building birdhouses or restoring cars, but every person is made to create, even if that is as simple as relationships. There is an older couple at my local coffee shop that just sit there and talk to whoever they come across. They take time to get to know the workers or the patrons. They sit and talk and get to know them on a personal level. In the years I have been going there, they have always been a staple. One of the best ways to live a good story is to focus on what you are passionate about and do that.

Passion brings out passion in others and it will amaze you how as you begin to let your passion shine, others truly will feel liberated to do the same around you.

Be open to random acts of kindness. I saw two guys talking one time. One of the guys was telling the other how he had been out skateboarding that night, hit a rock and, in a freak accident, the board went careening away from him and down a sewer drain. The man being told the story went to the tool box of his truck and pulled out a skateboard. He just simply told him that he thought he could use it more in that moment and let him have it. Be open to parting with things or paying for people randomly. I know in this economy, parting with money or things is harder than it once was, but there is something freeing about it.

It’s true that things we don’t really need or take for granted could mean the world to someone else.

Make decisions thinking about the effects they will have long-term. As important as it is to live in the moment, there is something to be said about being conscious of the future. I am by no means saying you should wear yourself out thinking about it, but think about that word or that action. In the same way one negative action can have repercussions that last for years to come, so can one positive action. You see it every day in teachers that invest in the “problem” child. There are so many stories about misunderstood people who’s lives were changed by someone investing in them.

The more we learn to filter decisions through a certain intentionality, the more it gives this whole thing a bigger purpose.

Life is a precious thing. Some of us will get 100 years here, some will get significantly less than that, but depending on the approach we have, we can make it one hell of a story. Whether you are twenty-one or ninety-one, if you are reading this, you have great potential for good. You can be the difference in someone’s life; you can be the catalyst for something amazing in another person’s life.

So to nail down today what I hope my legacy is when I die is a tough thing to properly see, as I think I’ve got a lot of learning and growing left to do in my life. But one day, when my kids watch tiny lasers play out scenes of my life on their eyeballs, I hope that a few things they understand about me are my love of love, kindness, and giving. And burritos, I love burritos.

But I can’t control this. I can’t control how my kids see me after I’m gone (except when they’re young, they’re so weak minded when they’re young), anymore than I can control how they or others see me while I’m alive. In the past I was very concerned with what others thought of me but I’ve since let that go, and now I’m only concerned with my actions and my authenticity.

So it would make sense that I need to let go of what my kids will think of me after I’m gone, if I can keep my values and beliefs in mind while I’m focusing on what’s important to me, I think my legacy will take care of itself.

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