Saturday, August 19, 2006

Leaving A Legacy

I was watching one of the episodes of America's Got Talent the other week and noticed that there were a few acts where family members performed together. There was one family in which everyone danced and played the fiddle at the same time. Talk about talent, not just one individuals talent but an entire family's talent.

It started me thinking about how families leave a legacy. Sometimes the family legacy can be a negative one. For example alcoholism that makes it's way down through the generations. Sometimes, however a family legacy can be a wonderful thing to pass down. Consider a family with several generations of doctors, or military service. I started to think about the legacies that were passed down to me and to my husband. And it occurred to me how intentional we need to be about passing down our legacies, lest they die out in one generation. Both Tod and I had similarities in our background. We were taught the importance of our faith in Christ and to make that the center of our lives. Both of us were looking for that as a priority in a marriage partner before we even married. It was a given that that legacy would be essential to pass down. Both of us came from families where our parents ran a business that involved the family. For me that was helping my parents with their garden center every spring. Learning to count back change and operate a cash register when I was 10 years old. Tod's family ran a chicken farm and the family spent their weekends gathering eggs and taking care of the chickens. Both of us grew up selling produce from our garden. My parents loaded my sister and I up with a wagon of peppers and tomatoes and corn and sent us door to door to the neighbors house. Tod sold produce at the end of his driveway at a little produce stand.
Tod's family is also a family of runners, his cousins, uncles, siblings all are excellent runners. His dad ran triatholons until his death at age 63. And his uncles run in their 60's and 70's. Tod has participated in running since high school and picked up triatholons after his dad's death. He even had the kids doing kids triatholons at some of his races. This was one legacy that was foreign to me. I was not a runner. Tried to run but my little legs only had one speed...slow motion. I remember shortly after my oldest daughter was born, training with Tod to run a 5K. The race was called Run for the Animals and the t-shirt that the runners got was so adorable I had to have it. So Tod helped me develop a training schedule and cheered me on and coached me. And I proudly ran a 5K. When Tod's dad died I found out that he had kept a picture of me at my race right on his desk for several years. Proud I think that his legacy had transcended immediate family and would no doubt be passed on to the grand children.

I'd love to say that now I'm competing in 10K's, marathons, triatholons you name it. But that's not the case. I do however, love to go running with my family at the middle school track near our home. We have started to attract other family members too. Tod's mom joins us. Sometime his sisters do, when his sister from Tennessee visited with her family we had all of the cousins running and racing each other. We could almost feel how Tod's dad lives on through that legacy.
Tod and I have kept the legacy of the family business model as well. While neither one of us are keeping the family business going that we worked at as kids, we are applying what we learn to our own little business renting our cottage out each summer.

The kids are involved with helping us clean it. Calalily has created flyers for it. Juniper loves to wash the windows and mirrors. Jazz sometime helps Tod with repairs. And they go with us when we check people in and show them around. Each week when we come to clean the kids love to read the guest book to see what our guests did while on vacation. We are teaching them to work together for the good of the family.

We enjoy exploring new legacies too. Through their own unique personalities our kids are introducing us to new things. Caly loves basketball, Juniper, music, and Jazz his love for numbers usually manifests itself in finding ways to make money. We find ourselves doing things as a family to support the legacies our own children want to leave on this world. And as they grow and develop and new opportunities open up to them their will be many other legacies to explore

I was reading through the profiles of my former (not old) high school classmates and thinking about the different legacies they were all leaving, legacies of travel, love of culture, music, athletics, education. I was thinking of how wonderful for the kids to grow up in these families and be exposed to the loves of their parents.
But leaving a legacy takes intention. It is about involving kids in the stuff you want to leave to them. And sometimes that involves taking a step back to where they are at to lead them to where you want them to go. Going back to the beginning of what you do well can be difficult. Our tendency is to want to move forward not backwards. But if you want your legacy to live on you need to be intentional about teaching. Tod learned that he needed to do his running at the track to keep his eyes on all the kids and motivate them. But his preference is to run alone at 10:00 at night down the shoreline of Lake Michigan. But he wants to pass down a legacy, so we make running a fun family event. And each child gets their own number of laps to run and a dad and mom to cheer them on.

What is your family all about? What legacies do you want to pass on to your children? Are you starting new legacies or passing them down through the generations? How are you intentionally setting aside time to keep your legacies alive? Families can leave all kinds of legacies, from music to sports, to giving or helping others, from setting up a charitabe fund the kids are involved in to going on family mission trips, or creating family service projects, from being the helpers in the community to being the business people in the community, families can leave a legacy of faith, it just matters that you become intentional.

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