What Legacy Do You Leave Behind?
I recently attended a 79th birthday celebration, and the question raised several times was this “What legacy do you leave behind, when your maker calls you back, away from this world?” In light of all the recent occurrences, I thought this was a very pertinent question to raise with our teens. We always think of death in terms of the elderly but we all saw five able bodied young men gunned down in the prime of their lives when they truly had done nothing wrong. A chill goes down my spine even as I think about this, and I can’t even imagine how their families feel. To me, this was one of the saddest days in our nation’s history. As a black mom with two sons, I pray for protection for them every time they step out on the streets because unfortunately there appears to be a spate of random and unnecessary killing of black males. However, I’ll be the first to say that acts of hate towards other innocent people and taking the law into one’s own hands only exacerbates the problem and really serves no purpose . How do we parents prepare our youth and young adults to thrive and excel in a less than perfect world?
1. Love truly does conquer all
It sounds like an overused cliché, but I don’t know how else to put it that we don’t achieve anything in life, by carrying hate in our lives. If we teach our teens and young adults to truly love and respect others regardless of skin color or life views, perhaps they will realize violence is not a very effective way of communicating. Where does it end if we each use violence to repay each other for “perceived wrongs?”
Martin Luther King Jr put it best when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Parents should be careful not to inadvertently breed hate in their teens by their own views and expressions. We must use discretion when heated up and emotional about what is going on around us. We may carelessly say hateful things we don’t mean. Never-the-less, these words and ideas get stuck in our teen’s sub conscious minds and they very soon start acting out and carrying a chip on their shoulders. This attitude spills into their relationships and interactions with others with dire consequences. We really should strive to leave a legacy of love for our teens.
2. Teach teens accountability
As life goes on, we need to make our teens aware of the finality of life and teach them accountability for their actions. Teens live life in the moment. Even when bad things happen to their friends, they may initially be shocked but they always come to the comfortable, if not apathetic place of “it can’t happen to me.” Unfortunately yes, it can happen to each and every one of us. No one knows when their last breath will be. We should live each day with meaning and give our best every day. We should hold ourselves accountable for every action we take and teach our teens to do the same. You may not have that second chance you’ve taken for granted. There are young people like Anne Frank who lived a very short life and yet inspired the whole world by taking a stance and standing up for the truth and holding themselves accountable. In our modern days, we have people like Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban for her beliefs and survived. She continues to inspire all of us as a human rights advocate. She leads a fight for the right to education for all. We should teach our teens to live as if each day matters, because really it does. They should learn to hold themselves accountable for their actions, and make a mark in the world. They should not assume they will contribute to society when they are older. The time is now, to make a difference.
3. Don’t gain the whole world and lose your soul
Sometimes in our quest to excel and become great, we lose ourselves and stop focusing on what is truly important. There are many very successful people, who are not very happy. They’ve lost touch with what really matters. People strive to become the best and greatest. We want to drive the most expensive cars and live in the biggest house on the block. These things don’t really bring happiness. I would dare to say no. By all means do your best every day to excel but take time to acknowledge and give thanks to your maker. Really, without his blessings you may not even be here. Pay attention to your family. Your family loves and supports you and just wants a little bit of your time, and acknowledgement that you care. Take time to smile and interact with the people you work with every day. A smile goes a long way towards making someone else’s day better. Finally, take time to relax and rejuvenate yourself. Stop and breathe a little. What would you like to see on your tombstone when you are dead and gone? That you were a great worker who spent all your time in the office and acquired great wealth or would you like to see the impact you made in the lives of your family and friends and how you changed the world in your own small way? Don’t gain the world and lose your soul.
I know that this a very morbid topic, and one we would prefer not to discuss, but I think it is very important to talk to our our teens about the finality of life and the legacy we leave behind. Teach them the value of love for family and friends and respect for all, whether they look like us or have different views from us. Teach them to hold themselves accountable for their actions and to live life like each day matters. Make a difference today. As much as we don’t want to think about it, tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Teach them what really matters in life, love for their maker, and taking time to impact the lives of others around us.
What legacy will you leave behind?
“Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it’s inspiring.” ~ Anonymous