“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” Rosa Parks
Hubby and I met our running buddy Al for a hilly run starting at a church in a very small town near our house. The running group that has now dwindled to just the three of us used to have a name for this route, which I had not run in years – “Pillage in the Village“.
I don’t know why we called it that; although it does begin in a village, the name implies a level of badass far too advanced for our little group of older runners.
The course snakes around in an eventual loop on country roads with no shoulders. The lack of road shoulders was not a problem; we ran for a long time without encountering cars.
We did encounter lots of dairy cows, though. Lancaster County, where I live, is dairy country. Most farms are postage stamp sized, with each farmer growing the corn and soy he needs to support his herd of Holsteins.
As we rounded one corner, I thought I saw some big brown cows off in the distance, frolicking on a hillside. As we got closer, I realized these “cows” were actually bison spurred to kick up their heels by the spring sunshine.
“Bison,” I thought at the incongruous sight. “That’s something we never would have seen here when I was a kid.” And, just like that, down I went, into the rabbit hole of remembering the world from my childhood.
One of my fondest memories is of my mother and I snuggled under the blankets reading books before bedtime. Before I was born, my mother had been a teacher of English, French, and Latin; books were important to her.
I can recall imploring her for “just one more book” time after time. She would usually laugh and read “just one more” seven or eight times before she finally tiptoed out of my bedroom and closed the door.
When our children were young, Bill and I continued that practice, reading at first picture books like those from Dr. Seuss, then chapter books like Treasure Island, Charlotte’s Web, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to our three boys.
I recalled my father, who always initiated our family vacations, and his love for travel. We had the typical family beach vacations and trips to a cabin in the mountains of Pennsylvania, but we also traveled to far-flung destinations like Hawaii, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and the Bahamas.
I also remembered one disastrous trip to a campground in a state park about two hours from our house (my sister is now smiling as she reads this). Our family was not a camping family, but we borrowed equipment from a neighbor and thought we would try “roughing it” for a week.
The short story is: we all hated it, but we didn’t want to say anything to the other members of the family since we all thought everyone else was having a good time.
Finally, after a few days, I (the youngest) spoke up. “Let’s go home,” I wailed. That was the excuse my family needed. We packed up camp and spent the rest of our vacation exploring Gettysburg National Military Park, securely and comfortably ensconced in a motel room and eating our meals at restaurants, rather than around a camp stove.
When our boys were young, we shared our love for travel with them, visiting Yellowstone National Park, the Outer Banks, Mexico City, and New Orleans, among other locales, but no campgrounds.
The point is this: my parents imparted a legacy to me, whether they realized it or not. They passed along their love of books and travel (and the Phillies, but that’s another story) and their distaste for camping.
They passed along some more significant attributes also. When I was a youngster, my mother did the grocery shopping for an elderly neighbor each week, from her I learned generosity and service. My father skied and went fly fishing well into his 70s, from him I learned the benefits of living an active lifestyle.
When we think of the term “legacy planning“, it probably brings with it a financial connotation but we are leaving a living legacy with our children (and grandchildren) from the time they are born. Neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers also watch to see how we handle situations. We are role models, like it or not. Children see how we interact with others. They are learning from us. If we treat other people with respect and honesty, chances are they will too. If we are always looking for a fight or if we take advantage of those who have less power than we do, kids who watch us will probably follow that example as well.
If social relationships are important to us, there is a good chance they will be to our children; if we do not spend time building our social network, we may be raising children who do not value friendships.
Children raised by insecure and fearful parents have a better chance of growing up with many of their own insecurities and fears. If we live our lives with confidence that we can handle difficult situations, our children will learn courage and fortitude.
Unfortunately, saying “Do as I say, not as I do,” is rarely effective. Children can detect hypocrisy from a mile away. Kids learn the most from adults who practice what they preach. If you don’t want your youngsters to sit in the house using technology for hours at a time, put down your phone. The apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree.
Children are watching how we handle conflicts and problems. Want to lose weight but don’t have the will-power to stick to a healthy diet? Our kids see that. Still working at a job you have outgrown or no longer find satisfying? They see that too.
How do you want your children, friends, neighbors, and grandchildren to remember you? Do you want them to think of you as compassionate and courageous, someone who is willing to stand up for their principles, a person who enjoys life? Your legacy begins today. Remember, the children are watching.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. – 1 Corinthians 10:23
I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Raisie Bay for Word of the Week, Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus, Spiritual Sundays for Welcome, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, Counting My Blessings for Faith ‘n Friends, and Morgan’s Milieu for Post, Comment, Love.