My daughter Kirsten plans to nab my jewelry when I die. My son Nicholas has his eye set on his dad’s snow boots. And while I make jokes about my kids’ strange-but-true post-mortem requests, I think there’s a serious conversation lying under the surface.
What is my legacy? Who are my heirs? And what, beyond jewelry, do I pass on?
A few Christmases ago, I challenged my family to think of a different kind of legacy: the one Jesus set forth in his own life. So we started serving meals and handing out clothes, backpacks and boots as part of the Jesus Delivers ministry. Everyone got involved: my dad shined in his role as greeter and order-taker; my son’s girlfriend shot photos; and my kids and my mom served up chili. I, meantime, was touched by those who were rich in spirit, but economically poor.
On that Christmas Eve, my husband and I delivered gifts to a family we had “adopted” for the holiday. The shopping list ran the gamut from camping and sports equipment, to arts and crafts supplies, to dolls and teddy bears, to a little something for Mom.
As we loaded presents into the back of the family’s minivan, the mom looked and me and asked, “Why are you doing this?” I explained that my husband and I had experienced hard times before, and that we both had been divorced.
The woman looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “So do you mean there’s hope?”
I hugged her tightly. “Yes,” I replied.
When I think of people who have created a larger-than-life legacy — like Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez or even Bono or my local heroine, Ann Bancroft — I wonder whether I can lay claim to creating a legacy of my own. After all, I’m just one small person struggling to earn money to pay for my kids’ college. How can I change the world?
As we approach Easter, and prepare ourselves for rebirth and renewal, I am considering that maybe I am exactly what is needed to heal the world. I don’t need to be smarter, richer or better in some way before I acknowledge that I can leave a legacy. In my own way, I influence and impact people around me.
We all do.
That’s what Jesus meant by living his life the way he did. He wrote his legacy in every moment: in every healing, in each teaching word, in every miraculous touch. And by doing so, he left a legacy for us to follow:
Love one another.
Feed the poor.
Care for those who are lost, sick or the least in society.
So maybe I am enough. And so are you. That’s the beauty of it all: being a part of a bigger legacy, being called as an heir, seeing the connection between Jesus’ legacy and our own.
Maybe the collection of my actions and my presence are the jewels I will pass on: things I can give to more people than my daughter. I am —and you are — exactly what is needed to carry on Jesus’ mission in this world.
That is our legacy.
Jody Thone is the Director of On Purpose Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater. She leads a contemplative practice at 7:30 a.m. every Thursday, as well as classes in discovering your unique design and living your God-given strengths. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.