Last week we highlighted the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, which is focused on keeping homeless families together by providing free, temporary housing and the means to re-establish their independence. This week, following the recent loss of two of my family members, let us explore the importance of a legacy statement.
A legacy statement, which is somewhat of an ancient tradition, is a personal message that captures the significance of one’s life. Legacy statements can be a lasting imprint from a corporate leader or a heartfelt note from parent to child, but the idea is to share stories that defined and shaped the principles and beliefs by which you lived your life or ran your business. It is not about archiving achievements, but describing moments that revealed character and what you deemed most important.
There are numerous tips online for crafting a legacy statement. First, sit down and reflect upon your life, thinking about your belief system and what morals you might pass along. Introduce yourself and paint a picture of your life for those who might not have ever known or met you, while crafting your message to a specific audience, like family or employees. Be honest and provide your wisdom and advice, so that people can learn from your successes and failures. Lastly, use the legacy statement as a chance to share your love and let others know how much you cared for them.
Even though a legacy statement may seem like something that should wait until retirement, there is no better time than now to start thinking about the legacy you want to leave behind. In defining your legacy statement now, you are affording yourself the opportunity to take control, create it, and live it out, versus having to glance back later in life, perhaps with regrets. A past Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club guest speaker, Wes Moore, said it best: “When it’s time for you to leave, make sure that it mattered you were even here.” The more you can define now, such as your priorities and goals, the more “it mattered” will take care of itself.
Recently, I lost two uncles to different types of cancer. Both were rocks in our family and will be forever missed. While I will always have amazing memories, I wish each of them would have crafted a legacy statement for us to cherish and share with future generations of our family. It would have been a great gift to know what they prized and held in high regard. The older I get, the more I appreciate learning from others, which teaches us more about ourselves. So, although we might not have control of our “time to leave,” we can definitely make the most of each day and work to leave a lasting impression through our legacy statement.
Jeremy Park, director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter (@lpbreakfastclub) and Facebook (facebook.com/lpbreakfastclub).