One of the many enjoyable memories that I have of my grandmother is about something often took place around Christmas time. Grandma Schaller’s hobby was crocheting, and usually she was crocheting afghan blankets for other people. It was therefore not unusual for one of her afghans to show up under the Christmas tree as one of my gifts. These became special gifts, tokens of her love, and they continued even after I was married and had children. Grandma crocheted several beautiful afghans for my wife and me to use in our home, and made special crib-sized afghans for the each of my children when they were born. We still have many of these, and beyond keeping us warm, they also represent significant meaning.
Grandma Schaller passed away a number of years ago, when my oldest child was a sophomore in high school. Her afghans became her legacy, one of those special things for which she was remembered. But then, something incredible happened. When my oldest graduated from high school two years later, she received a gift – from Grandma Schaller. My parents gave her a box, and it contained an afghan that Grandma had made for that occasion (and amazingly, it had the same colors my daughter had chosen for her dorm room). We then learned that when Grandma had discovered that she had cancer, and that her time would be short, she made an afghan for each of her great-grandchildren, to be given to them at their next significant life event. It was her legacy, and it continued even after she was gone.
This is a wonderful example for me of what it means to leave a legacy. Grandma Schaller made an impact with her life that was remembered after she had passed; and then, not just her memory but her life continued to make an impact on the lives of those who knew and loved her. Even though she was gone, she impacted us not simply by her memory but by her forethought and her intentional actions.
Now apply this concept to your leadership: how are you leaving a legacy? I recently wrote about a king described in the book of 2 Chronicles whom we are told “departed to no one’s regret.” This is a sad commentary on someone whose greatest legacy was that people were glad he was gone. Think of the travesty if this were to also be said of you or me. You see, your legacy is the influence you leave behind that continues to impact people after you are gone. It could be an impact that has a negative influence on people, one that continues to cause residual damage and results in people breathing a sigh of relief when you are no longer there, or it could be an impact that continues to enrich and shape lives. Either way, you will leave a legacy, and to leave a good one requires forethought and intentional actions.
There is no question that you will leave a legacy. Your life has an impact, and it doesn’t go away when you’re gone. For good or for ill, you will leave something behind. So the only question left is this: what kind of legacy will you leave?