Last summer, I was walking along the beach and saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that read “Flaunt Your Humanity.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I feel that it is important to find and, yes, flaunt your humanity. Although “flaunting” sometimes has a negative connotation, I believe that by sharing with one another how we are expressing our humanity—what we do to help others, to give back to our communities—we encourage others to do the same. By flaunting our humanity, we live our legacies.
What do I mean by living a legacy? Most often, a legacy is described as something we leave behind. It is usually used in terms of money to build or fund something, such as a building at a university, a hospital wing or a library in a person’s memory. But for me, the meaning of living your legacy—your humanity—is much broader. I believe that a legacy is a gift to the future and a gift to the present. It is the core of who you are—what you stand for, how you treat others, and what you contribute to improve the world around you. You can live a legacy by the type of person you are and the way you lead your life. I think we must each live our legacy and live it now.
Because the challenges we face in our world today seem overwhelming, we often close our eyes—and our hearts—to the suffering around us. We don’t think that we have the power to change things. This is simply not so. I know that this is true because of my own experiences, and because of the amazing changes that I have seen young people affect in their communities. In 1995, after a successful career as an entrepreneur recruiting health care executives, I founded Champions of Caring, a not-for-profit organization, dedicated to educating and empowering youth to become social activists. To date, we have worked with over 10,000 young people from the greater Philadelphia region, teaching these lessons and providing programs that reduce prejudice and violence, promote caring and compassion and develop active, engaged citizens. We teach these young people to do the good work—to address issues locally and globally— but also to flaunt their humanity and live their legacies everyday of their lives. By sharing what they are doing with others, they become inspirational role models.
The process of creating a legacy is both selfish and selfless. In doing for others, we gain much more for ourselves. Is that selfish? Maybe, but its okay when you are investing so much of yourself in something so valuable.