I do not know about you, but I love running into people who may be in town visiting family or those I have not seen in a while during the holidays. This happened to me during the week of Thanksgiving as Sam and I went grocery shopping for my step-father. I ran into Mrs. Ruth O’Quinn, my high school Honors English teacher. It has been over 30 years since I took her class, but she still looks exactly the same. As people in small Southern towns often do she gave me a hug and also asked about my brother, whom she also taught. She then proudly announced to me, “Well you do know that I am 90 now.”
I could not wait to introduce Sam to this lady who has touched so many young people’s lives in our town. But when I went to introduce Sam to her, something else took place. Sam had been in another part of the store when I first encountered her, so when I went to find her again she was talking to a very sweet lady in a scooter. She asked me if I remembered Mrs. Miller, who taught at the local junior high school, and while the name sounded familiar, I had not had her as a teacher. Not missing a beat Mrs. O’Quinn turned to Mrs. Miller and said “Oh, but you would know her grandmother.” “Oh, and who was your grandmother,” Mrs. Miller asked me. To which I replied, “Catharine Mattis.” “Oh heaven sakes, EVERYONE knows Catharine.”
Now keep in mind, it has been almost 12 years since my grandmother passed and yet, her legacy shines just as brightly today as it did many years ago. I come from a long line of educators and have been blessed to have incredibly strong women mold me into the woman I am today. But this simple conversation in a local grocery store during Thanksgiving has been on my mind for weeks now. It made me ask myself the question “What kind of legacy am I leaving to my children? And I think it is the PERFECT question we can all ask ourselves as we start off this New Year.
What kind of LEGACY are we leaving behind? Webster defines legacy as either 1) a gift by will especially of money or other personal property or 2) something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. What I am talking about here has NOTHING to do with money, because let’s face it; everyone knows that educators are some of the lowest paid professionals in our country. Not to mention that some of the strongest women who have the biggest impact on my life lived very simple lifestyles on very modest incomes. I have watched money destroy so many and yet I have watched those that have so little in terms of financial means have the greatest impact both during and after their time here on this earth.
So what kind of legacy does a woman leave that still has people talking about her almost 12 years after she has left this earth? This is what I wanted to know and this is what I wanted to examine in my own life. It is not just a simple cut and dry answer either, because this question then caused me to look at some of the other amazing women that have guided me along the way.
A common thread among all of the women who have left an impact on my life was their faith. They all seemed to belong to different denominations, but their faith was strong. Several of the women that had such a strong influence on my life where single moms before there really were single moms, so these women dealt with much more in terms of peer pressure and the glaring eyes of society than we could ever imagine having to do today. Some had college degrees and some did not, but what they all held in common was a strong work ethic. Some of the things that I embrace in my own life were very foreign to them, call that a change in the times or maybe it was just a result of the personalities of these often very different women coming together in a melting-pot kind of way with me. I think it may also be hereditary to some extent. For example, I share so many similar personality traits and creative talents with a great, great aunt and yet I did not see her much when I was a child.
These women taught me to laugh, honor The Lord, dance, create, hug, love others, embrace education, read my bible, pray, and know that things always happen for a reason. The legacy that these women left me did not involve anything monetary, but what it did to mold me into the woman I am today is priceless.
So what do I want to leave to my three children? Well, while all of my children know The Lord, I want them to have more than that. I want my children to see the relationship that I have with The Lord and this to be something that their hearts long for. They know I have faith that can move mountains and they know that I love to tell people what He has done in my life. My faith is dynamic and real which is something that I want them to see and experience, because there is just nothing in this world that can compare. I am an educator, that is what The Lord has called me to do and I LOVE what I do, but that also means that when my time here on this Earth is over my children will not be made rich on my account. If I can show them all the INCREDIBLE things that I am blessed with on a daily basis, instilling in them the desire to have a dynamic relationship with The Lord, well then there will be no greater legacy that I can leave them.
I encourage you to take some time and think about this in terms of your own life. This is not something that we often do in our fast paced world, but what better way to start the New Year and examine where we might all want to make changes. After all, what kind of legacy do you want to leave?