Saturday, 26 May 2012
Hitler or Gandhi?
What will you leave behind when you die? Cash in the bank that won't even cover a bus fare, a dilapidated house to give someone else a headache, a couple of vicious pets that someone else will have to 'put down'? Smelly old clothes that nobody wants to wear - not even a charity would take it? Unpaid debts (hopefully not in joint names), fake jewelry with no sentiment attached, or even a fancy car that doesn't work and nobody wants anyway?
Let's say the above things (pets excluded) are brand spanking new and worth a big penny. Is that all you would really like to leave behind when you die - possessions?
What about an imprint on society or better still, somebody's life? A legacy. Something that generations ahead of us will be able to continue to build on. Something that others will be able to learn from or be encouraged about. Something that will lead someone not to take their own life but rather to take control of it. A real legacy.
Gandhi didn't leave much in the way of possessions but he left a free nation. To be precise: two dinner bowls, a wooden fork and spoon, his diary, prayer book, watch, porcelain monkeys, letter openers, spittoon, and two pairs of sandals. Hitler left millions dead, his country in ruins and a chapter in history that we will never forget. Martin Luther King left us all a dream of a world in which 'all men would be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character'. Florence Nightingale left behind considerable wealth, but we all know her for the caring nature she had towards the wounded and dying. How about Mary Seacole? She did much the same as her counterpart Nightingale but after her death she was not recognised until much later. My point is, she still left a legacy.
On a smaller scale, I know that we are not all going to be able to free a nation, or get gunned down fighting for the rights of oppressed people. Not everyone gets to be rich or even gifted with exceptional charisma or intelligence, but we can still leave a great legacy behind us and hopefully a good one. I often wonder how Van Gogh the famous painter would react knowing that the paintings he couldn't sell in his lifetime are now priceless. He was the classic tormented genius. Not appreciated at all when he was alive but he still managed to leave a legacy to his name.
You may not realise it, but you may mean a lot to someone else. Others may be looking to you. They may see you as their mentor. They may be watching your every move and how you react and how you deal with things in life.
What if you had no material possessions to leave behind? All that you left was the impression you made on the people around you?
So my big question is, what are you going to leave behind that is unique?