Everyone’s legacy is unique. How you live your legacy will be determined by your own passions, interests, skills, and level of commitment.
Here are some examples of individuals who have embraced their legacies in a way that reflects who they are and what they want to accomplish:
Terrell recognized very early on that his strength was in leading and mentoring others. Through a variety of service projects throughout his teenage years, Terrell honed his public speaking and leadership skills. He knew that his strength was not just his ability to volunteer his own time, but to motivate and lead others to serve as well.
At age twenty-seven, Terrell is employed by a major corporation. Although his job keeps him very busy, he finds time to give back to the community that he grew up in. Terrell found his passion from his own personal experience of being raised by a single mother in Philadelphia. He created an organization called Program Watch, which works with inner-city boys and teens being raised by single mothers to provide them with mentoring, life coaching, community service opportunities, and work readiness skills.
Christine was outraged to learn about child-soldiering in Uganda. She discovered that children as young as seven-years-old are sold as sex slaves or trained as soldiers and forced to kill. Christine realized that even though this did not affect her community, she had a responsibility as a global citizen. This was an important social justice issue that hadn’t received enough attention, and she set out to raise awareness in her local community.
Christine was motivated to do something about this, but knew that it would be difficult to make changes and address a problem in a different country without a partner. Through her Internet research, she found and contacted the United Movement to End Child Soldiering, a peace-making and humanitarian organization, and explained that she wanted to get involved. She formed a committee and organized a gala to raise funds to benefit the organization. Over 200 people attended, and she raised more than $8,000. With this money, she was able sponsor the education of a former child soldier.
By combining raising awareness with raising money, Christine did both. She is an example of how we can work locally to create global change.
After learning about the genocide in Darfur and attending a speech presented by a refugee from Sudan, Madeline was inspired to raise awareness about this important issue.
Being a fashionista, she knew that one way to gain the attention for a cause was to create a clothing trend. So, with the help of a local designer and a t-shirt printing company, she created a “Hate Is Out of Style – Save Darfur” t-shirt campaign. Madeline created a small business selling these t-shirts, and quickly sold-out of her first batch of fifty shirts.
In the second year of her project, Madeline created two new designs and expanded her project to increase awareness within community. She attached a fact sheet about Darfur to each t-shirt she sold to ensure that her customers were well informed. She also began to engage in advocacy work beyond selling the t-shirts. In two years, Madeline raised over $3,000 through this project and donated all of the funds to non-profit organizations that advocate for peace in Darfur, and provide resources to refugees.
Madeline is truly a social entrepreneur. By using her creativity, leadership abilities, and networking skills, she was able to take her interest in fashion and address a global concern. Her t-shirt business raised funds, but more importantly, promoted awareness about this important cause.
Many people begin their journey of living their legacy because of a cause that is personal to them. Jeremy, a lawyer and father of two young children, decided to join the board of the small agency that had taken care of his uncle who suffered from cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Although Jeremy knew little about the details of research, treatment, and caretaking, he joined the board of the organization and brought his experience as a lawyer to become the head of the board’s finance committee. His law firm, one of the largest in Philadelphia with offices in several cities, was very supportive of the time that he gave working with the board.
Often, living your legacy can be tied directly into your career. As a young English teacher and reading specialist in an inner-city school, Alison was already in a position where she was giving a great deal of herself to her students. She was dedicated to instilling a love of reading and writing in her students, but she knew that this was not enough. She did not have the resources or community support that she needed to make a true impact on her students. Her school had no library, and her local public library branch closed down. After petitioning her principal and the school district with no success, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She got together a group of ten of her friends, and asked them each to clean out their bookshelves, and ask their families and friends to do the same.
She then took it one step further. Because she usually hosted social events for friends, she added a twist to her next holiday party. On her invitation, she asked everyone to bring a book and a $5 donation to go towards purchasing bookshelves for her classroom. Within one month, Alison had collected several hundred books and several hundred dollars. This project became a tradition with her family and friends. By using her social network, Alison was able to find simple ways to involve her family and friends in her cause and support her efforts to empower her students.
Margie’s favorite hobby is knitting, but she couldn’t figure out what she could possibly do with knitting to help others. She loved giving handmade blankets to her friends and family, and thought that maybe she could bring this same joy to others. After giving it some thought, she reached out to her friends, her 75-year-old mother, a group of her mother’s friends who also enjoyed knitting, and her own teenage children, and partnered with a women’s shelter. This was a place where formerly incarcerated women stayed before transitioning into living on their own within the community.
Together, the group knit blankets for the women at the shelter, to provide them with comfort and something to call their own when they reentered society. With each blanket, they attached a note of support for the recipient. The women who receive the blankets are moved by this personal gift, and appreciative that others care about them. The women who knit the blankets feel a sense of pride, and a special connection to one another and to the women that they are supporting. Everyone gains something special.