“We’ll be washed and buried one day my girl,
And the time we were given will be left for the world.
The flesh that lived and loved will be eaten by plague,
So let the memories be good for those who stay.”
–Mumford & Sons
These lyrics speak to me because they bring to mind a motivation for my life–being a mentor for others, to leave the world better off for the generation that comes up behind my own. I think we are meant to be stewards, our mortality both a limitation and a blessing. Perhaps you, as an individual, have 70 or so years in which to leave a mark. How will you be remembered by the people who loved you and pass through your life in both big and small ways? That our time is so brief should be, if nothing else, a great impetus to be conscious of what our action (and inaction) leaves for the people around us.
It’s a question of legacy, which at first sounds selfish. When some people think of legacy, they think of self-named buildings that they can have constructed, a physical testimony to one’s otherwise transitory presence. Others think of their children, how their offspring’s success can reflect positively on their own life. In a biological sense, ours children are our living extensions, repositories of the genetic material of which we are all composed. I won’t live forever, but my child will carry my genetic heritage and pass it on.
But, in one way or another, these concepts of legacy are shallow and unnecessarily restrictive. It humbles me, sometimes, to think of all the people I’ve ever had conversations with, all the people whom I’ve reached out to and who’ve reached out to me. Each opportunity to connect is an invitation to another to share what insights and what gifts we were graced with. It’s frustrating sometimes, to send out those invitations knowing that I’ll often be dealt rejection, a cold shoulder from the mass of people who are too wrapped up in themselves to reciprocate.
Yet, that is the price of kingship. I can invite you to the feast, but you may be too busy looking for things that won’t fill your hunger to even open the envelope. And that’s OK. Forgetting the “Nos” to continue to extend one’s hand in companionship is a sign of generosity. This generosity of spirit is what allows us to be good stewards of our time on Earth.
What if we remembered that more often? That our legacy isn’t built so much in the wealth or power or public recognition we accumulate, but in the ordinary moments in which we’re given the chance to lift a fellow traveler’s spirit or ease the doubt and anxiety that cloud a young person’s mind. In the end, when all else is forgotten, the small moments of kindness can change the world in unpredictable and unimaginably powerful ways.
What are some ways you leave a legacy “for those who stay?”