Every person has the God- given desire to make a difference. We all want our life to have made a positive impact on the world, and to leave it a better place simply because we have been born. Even animals, plants and trees do this through seeds and the drive to propagate their own species. We want to live in some way through those who follow us; but, not by what we achieved, necessarily, but more because of our life and the values and virtues we developed as we succeeded. These we’ll pass on to those who will follow.
In working with Native Americans in Wyoming, I heard the above philosophical saying from several tribes. It makes sense as we, in our continued-maturing stage, do some serious pondering about the life we have led.
We’ll never see the seventh generation in our families of origin or establishment. This requires us to immediately take our legacy off the ‘things’ approach of what we’d like to leave. It drives us to focus on real life values and virtues, which have guided our individual lives. Wouldn’t you give your right arm, so to speak, if you had a letter from your seven-times-great grandparents as to what was the essence of their lives? The same will be true for us seven generations down the line. Even if we have no physical offspring, we do have spiritual ones — special younger persons to whom we can leave something.
In the Jewish faith, there exists a custom of writing something called an ‘ethical will.’ In this document, the wise older generation in the family or community passes on sacred values and lived wisdom, which have guided them through life. In order to be truly generative, a necessary state of maturing, we must do the same. We may think: “Why do it, no one is interested in me.” How do we know? Remember — seventh generation!
Psychologists who study the value of handwritten notes and letters have discovered that these are the best because they communicate much more accurately who we are, just by our handwriting. As we write what we believe, it clarifies own goals. When we use machines, our thoughts get muddied with technicalities and perfection. As we hand-write, thoughts bubble up from our deepest depths that maybe we didn’t even know were there.
Instead of an ethical will, I prefer to call it leaving a spiritual will. Why not begin now to create your own. Put yourself in Christ’s presence and let your thoughts flow on to the paper. Don’t be concerned about technicalities, even spelling — unless it’s not readable. Remember and reflect on your personal life-story, then leave a legacy of intangible values and spiritual strengths to particular people in your life. Talents, and their use, are part of this legacy too.
Let’s begin. Future generations will be grateful, even if you have to wait for heaven to be thanked personally. Get paper (a tablet is good) and a writing tool. Begin. Feel free to change where needed as you develop this. It will evolve on its own with God’s grace.
1. List at least four spiritual gifts God has given you.
2. Name someone to whom you would like to leave each of these gifts.
3. List at least four special talents God has given you.
4. Choose someone to whom you want to leave these talents.
These simple questions begin your legacy. You might want to conclude each section by composing a blessing prayer for those you mentioned. If you are still in contact with these people, you may want to send them a note telling what you are leaving to them as your gift. It will help them find their own God-dream, and a fresh vision for life. They’ll be eternally grateful for your precious, meaningful gifts. You’ll be blessed too, even now.