Andy Andrews, author of The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters, once said on Facebook that people should read lots of biographies. The Bible stories tell us how the Old and New Testament people lived, their mistakes and triumphs. This is a legacy.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Legacy as,
something (such as property or money) that is received from someone who has died
: something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past
In ministry, I’ve met people who are shut off emotionally. Asking them hard questions that require emotional answers becomes as painful as cutting off an arm or toe. Some may prefer that to answering my questions. A legacy requires you to go deeper.
I teach writing at an Adult Day Center to Senior Adults with Alzheimers, Dementia, and other ailments twice a month. Writing is empowering. They feel helpless because people are taking care of them when they have spent their whole lives taking care of other people. Now they are trapped between the blank spaces of their minds or in a wheel chair. Some are like children–sweet and kind; others are angry; and some are in between. I tell them that the legacy they should leave behind are their words.
Remember when your grandmother or great-grandmother would fill out one of those memory books? The books ask the questions and your grandmother or grandfather answer them. The problem with those books are how incomplete and detached they allow the writer to become in it. Whole conversations you had with your daughter will barely be remembered down the line, and in fact, will probably be inaccurate in the recall.
So part of my challenge has always been to ask questions.
“How was your day?” I might ask.
“Good.” A person says as she nods.
“What do you mean by good?” And I dig deeper into that person’s day as an example of how generalities don’t tell the whole story. What does “good” look like?
I instruct people to use all five senses in the retelling of a story. I also teach them how to use fictional techniques: dialogue, description, and hooks. If you can’t remember a date, who was president during that time in your life? Time and place can be historical figures or places instead of actual dates. Why am I talking about journaling when this site is about social media and technology?
Social Media is an immediate tool for missions. Journaling is a legacy for evangelism within your circle of family or friends. Your journal will someday be read by future generations. God can use your journal to impact your great-granddaughter who might struggle with a relationship years down the road. You understand that struggle because you, too, endured heart break and broken relationships. Most people her age don’t understand that, while dates and culture are different, the emotions are the same. God is the same.
Journaling is something you can do in addition to your social media. For someone struggling with life-altering illnesses and medical conditions, journaling gives them some control. It gives them something to do and frees their mind from their bodily imprisonment.
But don’t wait until your mind begins to shut down. As Alzheimers and Dementia take hold, it becomes harder for you to collect your thoughts.
Suggestions For How to Build a Legacy:
- Learn and practice writing in a journal, like a novelist plots her story.
- Journal on Facebook and upload photos. Every year have a book printed through My Social Book.
- Blog and print out your blog. Three-hole punch it and put it in a binder. You are sharing the Gospel with others online and preserving your legacy on paper.
- Make a scrap book and write blog-length explanations next to the photos, tickets, and other paraphernalia glued in its pages.
- For people with Alzheimers, Dementia, or who endure some limited capacity, consider using audio or video recordings to capture their memories.