What is Your Legacy?

This idea of LEGACY, keeps circling back to me. It was on my mind during the 3-day weekend celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and it kept bumping around in my thoughts during the recent Presidential Inauguration and the Women’s March the day after.

Have you ever thought of the legacy you’re leaving behind? I don’t think many of us do. I wonder if great political leaders think on this? Did Martin Luther King, Jr. realize the legacy he left us? I suppose he thought his dream of racial equality would endure, but I wonder what he would think about the redemption of his suffering almost 50 years after his death?

Years ago I had the opportunity to visit his burial site. A stately marble coffin sits dramatically amid a calm reflection pond at his Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. His headstone marked with: Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, I’m Free at Last. Powerful words he used in one of his famous speeches, but many people do not know that those words are lyrics from an old Negro Spiritual. I think much of the world has forgotten he was a Christian Pastor and his civil rights movement was motivated by Christian love, all part of his legacy to us.

His story is marked with a strong commitment to non-violence amid horribly violent acts, that ultimately resulted in his murder. As I reflect on his story, some parts are too difficult to imagine. Those close to him felt he knew he wouldn’t live long. I cannot imagine the inner turmoil he must have struggled with.

We all have difficult parts of our story that can inspire others, perhaps not as dramatic as Dr. King’s, but still important. If our stories aren’t shared, the lessons aren’t shared. We must be able to see how our stories plays-out in the larger story of “us.” A big part of this, is knowing yourself, knowing the role you’re playing; the good, the bad and the ugly. What is the story of your life? What is the legacy you’re leaving behind? What struggles have you overcome? What commitments have you made? Have you fought for what is important to you?

If this sparks your imagination, I want to suggest a few books that I have found helpful in my own journey to knowing myself better and telling my story.

The first book, written by Vinita Hampton Wright is The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life Designed as a type of creative devotional for writers, the reader is taken to new places of self-discovery and ultimately, God-discovery. Each chapter concludes with “Exercises for a Writer’s Formation.” I found it challenging and well written.

The other book was assigned to me in grad school. Although required reading, I found it helpful as I unraveled some of my childhood assumptions about myself. I suppose that was the professor’s goal. Reclaiming Your Story: Family History and Spiritual Growth by Merle L. Jordan, examines and then skillfully breaks down the tension between the authority of one’s family structure, and Divine authority. There are thoughts for contemplation included in each section. The final chapter entitled, “Renewing Your Spirit by Reauthoring your Childhood Story” maps out an exhaustive list of quasi-therapeutic writing projects.

Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Our stories are the seeds of inspiration for others. I’d love to hear your thoughts and encourage you to tell your story, your legacy. Leave a comment below, or message me on Facebook.

PAX

~ lisa


Here is a collection of Dr. King’s thoughts, in his own words, a beautiful little gem that I’ve had on my bookshelf for over 35 years: The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Second Edition by King, Martin Luther, III, King, Coretta Scott 

10 thoughts on “What is Your Legacy?

  1. You make a really important point in this post. So many of us feel we don’t matter, and so we feel that our stories don’t matter, so we don’t share them, and we certainly don’t think in terms of leaving a legacy. But we can never know who our stories may help, or comfort, or empower. There are too many voices in our heads telling us to keep quiet, who do you think you are? etc etc… in fact someone reminded me the other day that it is selfish *not* to share our experience and knowledge… Thank you for this reminder.

    1. So very true Valerie, so many negative voices tearing us down. Sometimes our own voice is the loudest. Happy you are thinking on your own story, can’t wait to read more!!

  2. Thank you for this, and for the book recommendations. I got to see Dr. King and hear him speak when I was a young teenager, and shall never forget it. He is still a moral guide for us as we face a a strife-filled world — if we would only listen. I appreciate the encouraging tone of this post, and the practical tips.

    1. That’s amazing Carolyn, I would have loved to hear him speak. Listening … yes, something that is needed right now!

  3. Powerful words indeed… Thank you so much for such a wonderful post and for sharing information about the books. So relevant!

  4. I appreciate the reading list, and will look at your suggestions. I also appreciate this perspective on legacy. I hadn’t thought about it in this way anymore, and often think i have nothing of value to leave behind.

    1. We all have something to “leave behind.” I think we must let go of our own judgment of our lives value. I have a precious aunt that lived her whole life in a two bedroom cottage in the Ozarks. She imparted a lot to me, in the few letters we exchanged. I think she’ll be surprised to find how valuable they were to my development.

  5. Lisa, I think as writers we are more likely to be aware of the legacy of our words. I know for me, most of my words are for my loved ones: memoir, significant family events, family stories recorded for the younger ones to remember. I enjoyed your references to MLK. What an amazing legacy he left behind.

    1. So true! Stories have always been important to me, and I’m surprised when I meet people who don’t know their story!

  6. I have been struggling for the past few weeks with the idea of whether I am a writer or not and whether or not I have something to say on paper. I have no problem talking and sharing, but writing and sharing is too scary sometimes. I really love this post and thank you for the reading list. I will try to find the books.

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