We all admire someone. Usually, they are the people who have accomplished what you dream to. They are the compassionate and fearless do-gooders. People who, against impossible odds, accomplished great things and left their world a better place.
I have many heroes: Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Oliver, Mother Teresa, and JK Rowling, to name a few. These are women who have inspired me in what I do, how I do it, and in whom I continue to become. Yet, more than those who have intangibly impacted my life are those who have loved me, guided me, and made a forever impact face-to-face. These are women whose lives intertwined with mine, but walked a few steps ahead, carrying a little more life under their belts and wisdom in their hearts. Over time, these women each left a legacy on my young life for a reason, a season and, for some, a lifetime.
I will never forget being thirteen. Really though, who can? It is an equally tumultuous and exciting time, as girls slowly become women, and discovering who you are feels like reading a mystery novel. My body and mind were in constant transition, and connecting with others was no longer like finding a friend in kindergarten, but more like finding the right hair product for curly hair. (That analogy works for me, as I have only recently made peace with my own.)
… more than those who have intangibly impacted my life are those who have loved me, guided me, and made a forever impact face-to-face.
I was in middle school, consistently bullied, reaching for joy and confidence I could not quite find. My mom and I were newly at odds (thank goodness adolescence is but a season, because we are close friends now), and I desperately needed someone to talk to. A guide, my own personal Oprah, someone!
During this year, a newly married 20-something entered my life. Her name was Sarah. Sarah was the epitome of cool and confident, and for some odd reason, she was interested in me. She would pick me up from school, let me hang-out at her apartment for hours, and helped me process through a lot of my worries and insecurities. She showed me how to curl my eyelashes and how to see my own beauty. She prayed with me and cried with me. She dug deep, and showed me real kindness. Sarah’s life consisted of so many other relationships and accomplishments, but part of her legacy was the mark she made on my life. She made me better. That season of sisterhood and mentorship marked me in a permanent way, and positioned me to think about my own legacy.
A lasting legacy is a relational one. It is one of love. You may run for President or run a successful business, but I believe that real, lasting impact happens in human hearts. I may accomplish much with my hands, but if I don’t extend love to those in my life, then my legacy will have holes. You are never too young to start your own legacy. Like a tree that bears fruit over time, you may not see the full harvest of what your life has planted, but people will be deeply impacted nonetheless.
Who is the young girl in your life who doesn’t know she is beautiful, smart, and valuable? Come alongside her, and tell her who she is. Who is that relative who cannot seem to make a healthy decision for herself? Share your story, and walk with her towards restoration. If we wait to be perfect or qualified to extend a helping hand, then we never will. It is time to think about the reasons people have been placed in our lives, and to start taking our legacy seriously.
If we wait to be perfect or qualified to extend a helping hand, then we never will.
A beautiful legacy is built on consistency, integrity, honesty, and availability. Are we using our Instagram captions to create common ground and love those who follow us? Are our schedules open to one coffee date or lunch time a week for someone else? Who in your life needs to be seen? I am forever grateful that Sarah saw me. That vulnerability and convenience (two things people are rarely willing to give up), never hindered her investment into my life. Throughout the years, many more have come along to cheer me on, and walk with me. I have made it my legacy to continue their work of hands-extended and heart-ready living.
Whether it is your little sister, or a friend walking through pain you have known, it is important that the lessons you have learned are passed on. Leaving a legacy is not about personal gain, but as we give our lives away for others, an unexplainable fulfillment springs forth. Saint John said, “In the twilight of life, we will not be judged based on our earthly possessions or human successes, but rather on how much we loved.” May we open our eyes to those who need us, and open our lives to invite them in.
Who has (already) left a legacy in your life?
Image via Jason Barbagelott for Darling Issue No. 13