I recently completed a project for an estate and trust lawyer. And another client of mine is an investment advisor. Both of them are in the ‘money’ business. One helps clients accumulate it; and the other helps them dispose of it. But I’ve always believed that money is the least of what we leave behind — our legacy, in other words.
Which is the reason why I decided to take a stab at a recent WordPress Daily Prompt for this post: “Imagine yourself at the end of your life. What sort of legacy will you leave? Describe the lasting effect you want to have on the world, after you’re gone.”
A good place to start is probably the non-monetary legacy my parents left me. They were kind, loving, generous people. Everyone was welcome in their home, in their lives and in their hearts. It didn’t matter who you were, or where you came from.
They were honest to a fault. Their ‘word’ was like a blood oath. And there isn’t a human being who ever knew them, who would ever have questioned their integrity, or their intentions.
Family and friends meant everything to them; and whenever anyone needed help my parents could always be counted on.
It was my parents who guided me, and influenced me, while they were alive. And they still do, even though they’re both gone. They set the bar very high. I hope I do even half as well as they did.
My work ethic comes from my parents. They both believed it was possible to achieve your dreams, provided you were willing to work hard for them. No matter what I ever wanted to do — whether it was to learn how to figure skate, cook or become a writer they always encouraged me. But quickly pointed out what it would take, leaving it up to me to decide whether or not I was willing to put in the time and make the effort. They also drilled into me, when I committed to do something — regardless of what it was — I was to give it my all, or not do it.
And during my career I’ve tried my best to do the same for those who have worked with, and for me. So I hope they’d say I gave them a lot of encouragement when it was called for. That I gave them honest feedback, and evaluated them fairly and objectively. And that I was tough when I needed to be, but without being mean spirited or hurtful. Like everyone else on this planet, I know I was far from perfect, but I’d like to think I did more right than wrong; and that I helped those folks achieve their dreams and have successful careers.
As for Fransi, the human being, what can I say?
Like my parents before me, I like to think of myself as a good, kind, giving person. Again, I don’t always get it right, but I’d like to think most people would say I sure tried. There is more than a little ‘activist’ in me. In fact, a former colleague used to call me Fransi Vigilante. I cannot stand it when people, and animals, are treated unjustly and cruelly. Senseless violence and hatred and prejudice makes me crazy. And I’ve never been shy about sharing my feelings.
Something you already know about me, because I’ve done my fair share of ranting on this blog. If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter you’ll know I also voice my opinion there. I’m constantly writing letters to politicians, corporate executives, journalists and anyone else ‘in charge’ in an attempt to speak up for those who can’t, or won’t. And I support a lot of causes I believe in — sometimes with donations, sometimes with pro bono work and sometimes with both.
Simply complaining to friends and colleagues doesn’t accomplish anything. You’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to participate. Stand up and be counted. Or don’t complain. Period.
Volunteering is definitely an inheritance from my mother. She volunteered when I was growing up, and did so again, when she moved to Toronto. She always made it sound interesting, she always shared how much she enjoyed it — and how good it felt — and I couldn’t wait to follow in her footsteps. My first exposure was when I was about 16 years old and was a ‘candy-striper’ at a hospital one summer in Montreal. I absolutely loved it; and promised myself I’d do it again, in the future.
So as soon as I left full-time employment and became a freelancer, in 2009, I started volunteering at Mt. Sinai Hospital here, in Toronto. And I still love it. It’s one of the most fulfilling, rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. Nothing beats knowing you’ve made someone’s day a little brighter, or a little easier or less scary.
You may think I’m nuts, but I believe the mistakes I’ve made will also be part of my legacy. I’ve learned a lot from them and I’d love to think those who were there when I made them can learn something as well. Even if it’s simply to try to avoid the same pitfalls.
Of course, all this chitter-chatter is nothing more than what I’d like my legacy to be. Who knows what it will be. Wouldn’t it be terrific if, as we’re standing at the Pearly Gates (presuming we’re not headed further south) waiting to be let in, we’d be greeted by a be-spectacled angel wearing a suit and tie. Out of his briefcase he’d take a file folder which he’d hand to us. It’s our ‘balance sheet’. And on it would be a list of our accomplishments. Our successes and failures. The good we did, and the bad.
Wouldn’t it be grand? Because then we’d know exactly what our lasting effect on the world turned out to be. Or didn’t (gulp!). Oh dear …