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Building a legacy and strengthening a community

This week we watched our nation absorb the news of atragic accident involving a celebrity.

The sad reports of nine lives lost without warning. The poignant, painful reminder that no level of socioeconomic status can protect us from all misfortune.

In the flurry of social media reaction and public discussion, I couldn’t help but notice a prevailing theme.

We weren’t really obsessed with his lifetime scoring record. There was minimal conversation about titles, scholarships, endorsements, or even net worth.

The interest seems to lie with his value as a husband, a teammate, a father, a coach.

The stories of Kobe Bryant’s quiet philanthropic gestures slowly began to surface. The tales of his constant attempt to juggle a demanding career with family commitments. The unending parade of people who came forward to share tales of his compassion, quiet generosity and his giving spirit.

Admittedly he was one of the greatest to ever step on the hardwood but in the end that isn’t really what defined him. Basketball was certainly his strength, his talent, his gift.

It ultimately delivered his overwhelming success, but he chose to make that the vehicle through which his impact would flow.

He chose to prioritize family and those that were close to him. He chose to give of his treasures. He chose to give up his time and talent.

As we are now learning, he often chose to do these things without grandiose display or even public awareness.

It is likely that none of today’s readers will become professional athletes on the superstar spectrum. It is likely that none of our readers will have as many zeros in their bank account as Mr. Bryant did.

However, each of us has the same potential for impact.

We all have gifts and talents and time that can change someone’s day, week, even their life.

Most of us can’t write checks with zeros stretching across the line, but we can give proportionately and invest our treasures where our impact is maximized.

Tragedy, particularly a highly publicized, 24/7 newsreel kind of tragedy, can pull us into its vortex.

We can begin to feel that we are part of the story or an addendum to the crisis. Perhaps we are … and in the most opportunistic of ways.

Tragedy can be the trigger that brings reflection and contemplation. Every death is a reminder of our own mortality.

It is an opportunity to consider how we will be remembered. What is the legacy that we will leave behind? We know that people will not likely gather at our final celebration to discuss our bank accounts to the awarded wooden plaques. (At least I hope that’s not what they remember about me!)

When it is my turn, I hope they gather and use words like kind, generous, compassionate, empathetic. I hope the discussion is about good endeavors and beautiful intentions.

We must hope that in that sacred moment, both those we know well and those we know only from the peripheral edges will speak up and share how our lives impacted their own. I want to leave this world knowing that in some small corner I made it better.

What will your legacy be? What will people say when they hear the news of your passing? Will they remember you as a personwho gave of your time and talents and treasures? Will they remember that you had a heart yearning for change? Will they reflect in ways both great and small of how you betteredthe things that crossed your path?

It is daunting to consider how you will be remembered, yet in a week like this it seems inevitable that it creeps into our thoughts. Often, we have grand intentions and a true, innate desire to make the world a better place, but that’s not something we always know how to execute.

Most of us were not born into this space possessing a roadmap of “how to make an impact.”

While the desire may feel deeply rooted and sincere, that how-to manual can sometimes seem baffling.

Do you feel the call to make a difference but just need a nudge to find your niche? Thankfully we live in a community where there are so many opportunities to step forward and make a change.

It can be as simple as giving five dollars towards a great cause during a time of need. It can be giving an hour of your week or even one Saturday a month.

The opportunity to “do good” is all around us but it isn’t always easy to know which step makes the greatest impact in that specific time.

Our United Way can help! We can guide you to a path where your unique gifts can make maximum impact. We can provide you with opportunities where your donation, no matter the size, can have profound results.

Too many people never realize the potential for impact and contribution that they possess.

Your check doesn’t have to contain multiple zeros. Your time does not have to be exhaustively teetering on martyrdom status.

Every moment, every smile, every dollar holds the opportunity to do something amazing. Tragedy steals our heart in the moment; the thought of being gone too soon can paralyze us in fear … but the next beat of our heart is the opportunity.

That’s the moment will you look around and choose to be a difference maker. That’s the moment where we contemplate what our own legacy will look like. Are you ready to build a legacy? Do you want to be a difference maker?

We’re here, waiting for you, already realizing the amazing impact that we can make together.

Get involved with your local United Way.

Find out what’s already happening and how you can be a part of building a stronger community while you craft your own legacy.

Give! Advocate! Volunteer! You have more to give than you even know and we need you on our team!

Stacy DeCicco is executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, located at 935 Market St., Parkersburg.

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