It is a safe assumption that few of us will end up in history books, have statues erected in our names, or holidays declared in our honor. This should not be a discouraging sentiment as significance is found in each and every one of us. Though we may not leave this world legends, we will all have the opportunity to leave something behind.
Many wrestle with the footprint they will leave behind in life. Some think it takes a big act or deed to have a positive impact or defining legacy. However, the truth is that anything worth leaving behind was built over time in little moments. It was a result of our commitment to consistent behaviors that influenced and empowered those around us. It was the tireless act of conditioning the world around us, instead of letting the world condition us.
This message resonates in every fabric of being an educator. Every school year, eighth grade students in my school write thank you letters to staff. It is always interesting to read what children remember or appreciate about you. I find that kids give us a window into what really makes a difference, and that almost always centers on how we made them feel.
The real guts behind teaching is connection. We have a set amount of time to prove to each and every child that they are worth something. We have the incredible blessing of planting seeds of hope, curiosity, courage, and self-empowerment. We do not know when those seeds will begin to take root and grow. We must rely on blind faith, as we often do not get the chance to stand in awe at the bloom of what we have cared for.
In the beautiful words of my dear colleague, who is retiring from education after decades of service, “I have always loved my job; the days were long, but the years were short.” Time escapes us all, but has a way of capturing the granules of moments that matter. These moments stack up to make a mark that cannot be washed away with the tides of time. It cannot be defined by words, but rather leaves a residue of importance on our memories.
Life is a classroom. All experiences, good or bad, teach us who we are and what we are made of. The lessons we are given will offer seeds of potential and opportunity for ourselves and others. We have the choice on how we sow those seeds. What will you leave behind? How will people say you made them feel? How did you treat those different from you? How did you treat strangers in need?
If we take a moment of reflection, we can think of dozens of people who left something important behind that shaped us and our outlook on life. The many who gave to our hearts and minds, so that we may be and do better for those around us. We all take from others, but we all decide how much we are willing to give. What are you willing to do so that what you leave behind makes others better tomorrow than they were today?
In assessing your “leave behind”. Remember, you do not need money to have influence or make a mark on this world. The real change comes from a currency of much greater value: love. Above all else, love is a transaction that always compounds interest. It generates a wealth that is everlasting and continues to provide for generations to come. It will be the light you see in others when you wonder what all of your struggles have been for. It is the legacy we all can choose to leave behind.