I was listening to a few Hamilton songs the other day, and it occurred to me that legacies are a recurring theme throughout the musical.
So, I was thinking about that, and then I saw this tweet.
Do you ever wonder what your legacy will be? I think about that a lot.
— Michelle Jackson (@MichLovesMoney) September 9, 2020
And that made my wheels turn some more.
I know that I am never going to be as famous as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, or any of the founding fathers.
I mean, no one is going to be writing a musical with me as the main character (or even a side character!) in a few hundred years.
But this doesn’t really bother me. I don’t care if anyone ever “tells my story” in the future.
One day I’ll die, and in relatively short order, I will be forgotten. No biggie.
I don’t think the effects of my life will die with me.
And I don’t go through life figuring that what I do is pointless.
I just don’t think that having my story told is the point.
So, what IS the point?
Barring an apocalypse, there will be an endless string of people populating the earth until the end of times.
While an individual person is not going to live forever, there is a sense in which they will.
Because the way we impact other people changes the way they impact others, and so on and so on.
Almost all of us are connected to other people, right? So we are going to have some kind of impact on those people, and the way we live our lives will determine whether we leave a legacy of impact for good or for ill.
I don’t care if people remember me in particular, but I want my life to have a positive ripple effect on the people around me.
And I want those good ripples to keep going long after I’m gone.
That’s not about me getting credit; it’s just that ripples are a sign of a life that has not been wasted.
What kind of ripples do I want to start?
Obviously, if I want to leave an impact behind when I’m dead, I need to start ripples that involve investing in people’s lives. If I invest in other people, they can then invest in others, and there’s the ripple starting.
What are things I can do that make people feel loved and cared for?
How could I share my faith with someone?
What can I do to help lighten somebody’s load?
What can I do to encourage someone?
What can I do to teach a skill to someone?
How can I brighten someone’s day?
There are big, lifelong answers to these questions (I will be investing in my children in these ways my whole life) and small, short-term answers (like helping a stranger reach an item on a high shelf at the grocery store).
You may never know the effect of your ripples
If you are investing in people you see regularly (like your kids, if you have them), you will probably get to see some fruit of your labors; the beginnings of a legacy.
But even with people we see regularly (like students, if you are a teacher), sometimes the effects of what we do cannot be seen until years down the road.
Or if you put in efforts online like I do, you might not ever lay eyes on some of the people you are trying to help!
So, I figure it’s best not to be fussed about whether your efforts are having a lasting impact.
It’s better to just consistently invest in people, put good out into the world and trust that these efforts are going to bear fruit in people’s lives.
It’s a little like planting seeds.
You can start ripples for free!
Of course, there are lots of ways that you can start good ripples by using money.
(Donate, start a charity, start a non-profit, pay someone’s bills, hire someone who needs job, etc.)
But since this is a frugal blog, I’m going to make a list of free/inexpensive ways that you can start a ripple and leave an impact.
You do not need to be a millionaire to impact people and leave a legacy.
(note: some of these are not possible during a pandemic, but most are)
- smile at people (out and about, yes, but also at home.)
- say thank you (again, out and about, but definitely at home too!)
- ask people questions about themselves
- listen to people
- check in on people you know, especially if they are struggling (a text, a call, an email, a mailed note)
- spend time volunteering
- encourage people when you see good in them
- send a small gift card (a coffee, donuts, a breakfast or lunch meal)
- deliver a small gift (a baked good, some flowers)
- leave a comment, not just a like, on their social media posts, or send a direct message
- pray for someone
- share an encouraging quote/proverb/Bible verse
- give compliments to the people you live with, but also to people you see when you are out (“Your baby is so cute!” “I like your dress.” “I like your perky attitude!”-a thing I just said to my energetic, peppy mailman)
- keep an eye out for ways to help people who are having a rough time, and offer in specific ways (“Can I watch your kids for you next week?” “I’m taking my kids to the park/pool/etc. Can I pick up your kid and bring them too?” “I made an extra pan of freezer dish ___. Could I drop it by for you tomorrow?”)
- invite someone to join you for a family tradition (we’ve invited people to carve pumpkins with us, and we’ve had a wide variety of people here to make Christmas cookie characters with us!)
- empathize with other people’s sorrows
- share in other people’s joys (delight in their baby, congratulate their raise, admire their new house, celebrate their kid’s accomplishment)
I could make an even longer list, but 1000 words into this post, I think I should probably stop and give the floor to you guys.
So. Two questions for you today.
1) Do you think about your legacy?
2) What would you add to my list of ways to invest in people?