Quickly scanning my email, I saw The Round Table. Authored by my friend Fred Smith, it’s a blog I read on Thursday mornings when I have time to reflect. The title, To be Known, stopped me; I paused but then kept scanning. Within a minute, I went back to it. To be known for what?
Biographies and autobiographies always draw me in. Ramey Elementary had one shelf dedicated to the legacy of life stories. I read them all. Then I grew up and discovered some stories were by or about someone less famous, written by someone intent on sharing a message. So, you might say I’ve collected legacy stories all my life.
One Legacy Sought, Another Found
Fred’s blog stuck with me through the day, the story of David Gundlach, a man who didn’t expect to become wealthy, amassed a fortune, and then spent years struggling to join the club of the rich and famous. Then, after unexpectedly dying at 56, he surprised his hometown of Elkhart, Indiana, with a gift of $150 million to the local community foundation. Gundlach spent many years unsuccessfully chasing a legacy to be known. He was complicated and misunderstood. Yet, he left a legacy that impacted thousands in unexpected ways.
As my day wound down, I stumbled onto The Colt, a movie made for the Hallmark channel. Set during the Civil War, it is based on a short story by Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Sholokhov. Following two small struggling troops, one on each side of the war, it centers on the birth of a colt by one of the Yankee mounts which quickly becomes a sign of hope. It is that hope that Corporal Jim Rabb risks his life to rescue when the Rebs take the colt.
One Legacy Sought, Another One Found
I recommend the movie, but know that it is a tragedy, just as the war between the states was a tragedy for our country. While the symbolism of the colt was not lost on me, a side story reminded me that we all seek legacy in our own way.
The Yankee troop was accompanied by an illustrator, Mr. Covington. Doing his best to sketch the war in hopes that one of his illustrations would catch the attention of editors from back east, he was asked by Corporal Rabb, owner of the mare that foaled the colt, “ I wondered if you would care to sketch my colt.” Mr. Covington replies, “I’d be happy to sketch your colt.”
And here we learn about one man’s search for legacy. As he watches, Rabb draws Covington’s attention to the colt’s straight legs and sloping shoulders. “Yeah, he could surely cover ground if he took his mind to doing so,” Rabb says. And he continues to explain, that shows the “old mustang blood is still running,” since the mare had herself been a mustang filly.
As conversation and sketching continue, Rabb talks about his brother, a recently fallen soldier, describing him as a man who liked war. Covington comments that “for some men, war presents an opportunity.” Rabb inquires, “Is that why you’re here?”
Covington sets him straight, “No, I’d like to make a name for myself like everyone else. I want to be remembered.”
“What, you think you have to make a name for yourself to be worth remembering,” Rabb asks. And Covington replies, “Yeah, I suppose I do.”
We’re all searching for legacy, the good stories we hope family, friends, co-workers, and maybe even our community will remember us by. Thinking about our legacy reminds us of past deeds we’d rather forget. We may judge our deeds, work or compassion lacking. We wish for a legacy of good.
Legacy is neither good nor bad; it simply is. Our actions can be judged good or bad, but our legacy is the entirety of those actions, meaning there is every opportunity to make sure the good outweighs what we judge as bad.
Decisions and Actions Create Legacy
Our legacy is like a shadow, following every step of our lifetime. Still, I believe we can be intentional about the legacy we wish to leave, just as Covington was working to create a memorable sketch. Our legacy, yesterday and of the future, is the subject of my forthcoming book I look forward to sharing with you soon, The Gift of Giving.
Gundlach pursued a legacy to be known as rich and famous, just as Covington sought to be known for at least one great illustration of the Civil War. And we know that Gundlach made one decision to leave most of his wealth to a community he loved, creating a legacy beyond anything he could have dreamed.
How do you think about your legacy? How do you hope others will remember you? We’ll talk soon about the future of your legacy.
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