Monday, April 6, 2015

Creating Your Legacy

I was chatting online with my niece the other day when the discussion turned to THE BOOK they have been working on for the past few years.   We call it THE BOOK mainly because it has become a rather large focus of their lives as they run through the hoops of having a book published.    It is an ordeal to be sure but one they are happily working on and will probably see a print version of the book some time next year.

I teased Rebecca as we were talking and alluded to all the talk shows they would be on as they make their book tour and of course, all the money that they will see coming in from the book sales.    And Rebecca said back to me, in a more serious tone, that this book (while they are both writing it) is Rich's legacy.    And that made me stop and think about what a legacy is.

If you consult a dictionary, you are apt to get a number of different meanings of the word.    It can be an inheritance, such as a sum of money left to you by your favorite aunt.   Some of you might think of the word applying to someone who gets into a prestigious university based upon the fact that your father or other family member went there.   Anyone remember Kent "Flounder" Dorfman in Animal House?  And then there is the achievement or accomplishment that is the mark you leave on the world to acknowledge your having been here.     It may even be of importance to those who come after you, but does not always have to be of that much significance.   

Now there is no doubt that Rich and Rebecca together have achieved success in many of the ways that this word conveys.    Both have been teachers to students who remember them to this day.  Early in their marriage they made a decision to form a company and have spent almost 25 years building their business traveling all over the world, teaching and studying how to improve teaching primarily in higher education.    And the work they have done has made a difference in academia, one professor at a time, one teaching assistant at a time so that now Rebecca and Rich are known world wide for their expertise in this field.    

So why a book?  Why do this when they already have fame and know they have made a difference in their field?    It comes down to legacy.    Rich was interested in this field before he and Rebecca met and began turning his attention to more effective ways to teach..   He studied what others had to say on the subject, began to gather the data to support the idea that teachers on the university level could use some guidance on how to teach and manage their classes so that students got a better education and were actually learning how to learn and to think.   An effective teacher could teach his or her students how to work with others and be better problem solvers long after they left the academic setting. 

Over the years of doing workshops and continuing the study about this subject, they amassed a huge amount of experience, data and feedback from students to know they had the makings of a book that could be of value to the people in academia who would never attend one of their workshops.    And so they set to work and soon they will reap the reward of seeing their hard work in print.   Rich probably never started his career as an educator with the intention of making his legacy a book about more effective teaching, but in the end, it will represent his life's work, the work he and Rebecca together have done and will pass along to those who come after them.    

Not all who leave a legacy do so in the form of a book or world wide fame.    Some will be like my Mother-in-Law, self named Big Mama,  who has lived a relatively low key life.   She has lived in the same community for most of her life.   She has been a wife, mother, grandmother and worked as a nurse in a hospital setting and as the office nurse for a physician.      Accomplishments were made to be sure.    However, if you were to ask various family members about her, what many would say is that she could make a fabulous "cat head" biscuit.  What you may ask is that?     It is a homemade biscuit made from Martha White Self Rising Flour, Crisco and milk or butter milk.    Why cat head?   Because, according to Big Mama, they are as big as a cat's head!     Many a meal at her house was served with a pan of  biscuits, hot out of the oven, served with butter, sour cream, syrup or jelly.     No finer eating anywhere, I assure you.  Tender, moist and just slightly tangy, I can almost taste them as I write about them.   

About 25 years ago, she decided she wanted to learn how to make quilts.   She saw an article about making a Quilt in a Day.    She didn't have any illusions that she could do it in one day but she set about learning how to do that and began making quilts for family members that are still in use today.   One day as I was making up our bed, I noticed a hand stitched corner of the quilt that said it was the Number 9 Quilt made by Mary Crawford.     And gave the date:  5-8-1989    And there are other quilts in use by various family members who will have a lasting legacy from their Mom or grandmother.   They warm us as we sleep and remind us we are loved by her and are important enough to her that she wanted to leave us with something handmade by her for us.    

 Another family member who recently passed away, Aunt Shirley Willard, left a different kind of legacy.    Yes, she left things, money and other tangible items to remind us of her but her legacy comes from how she lived her life, even in the last days of a long illness.     Aunt Shirley was a kind and gentle soul, although she was a tough business woman, who ran her own real estate company and achieved success in that world.   Her nature was to see the good in everyone and to come down on the side of fairness and forgiveness.     Even in her dying days she would give words of advice to be kind to one another.     A woman of faith, she believed with all of her heart that the way you live should reflect that faith.   And she did.    If you ask anyone who knew her, they will tell you that her legacy comes from how she treated others and how she inspired people to do better in their daily lives.   

So what will be your legacy?    How will people remember you or speak about you?    The important thing to remember is that a legacy does not have to be about fame or fortune.    It can be the essence of you as a person, the kind of person you were.    It can be for making a killer biscuit and tiny hand made stitches in a blue quilt.   It can be for living an exemplary life that inspired others to be like you.   Or maybe it will be a book that culminates a long career and reflects the things gleaned from that life's work.     

Happy Trails until next time,


  1. What a wonderful post, Marcia! Thanks for writing so kindly about our legacy project!

  2. Fantastic, Marcia--it feels great to be recognized like that. I think that's a big part of what makes the friendship of the four of us as deep and fulfilling as it is. Each of us has unique gifts that we're using to try and leave legacies for the next generation, and we all see and value each other's gifts. That could almost be a definition of friendship,.


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