When most people think of the word "legacy," they usually associate it with either family (as in children or "the family estate") or work (as in a corporate legacy of some sort). But over the past few years I've come to recognize another level of legacy at work in my life, one that is perhaps more fundamental than either of the other two. I call it my Relational Legacy.
My relational legacy is not about the great deeds I will do (though I hope to do cool stuff while I'm here) or the great things I will build (though that would be cool too). Rather, it speaks to the lasting imprint I leave on the people I encounter along the way. It is the mark I leave on their soul.
Of course, there are the big acts of kindness and grand gestures of sacrifice we all do from time to time (or at least I hope we all do them...and we could stand to do more). But I think it's the day-to-day stuff that really makes or breaks a relational legacy. It's the way you show up with people, the way you look at them (or don't), the way you listen (or don't), the things you say and the way you say them. It's the choice to be completely there, and offer yourself fully to them, even if it's just for that split second when the Barista hands you the hazelnut latte you order from her every morning. In some ways, I think relational legacy matters most in the little moments just like that, because "he who is faithful with small things will also be faithful with much."
What is the lingering effect you want to have on the hearts of the people who simply do life with you (or maybe just do life near you)? What is the mark you want to leave on their soul?
That's an important question for me. And honestly, I think about it a lot. Because good or bad, conscious or unconscious, my life is leaving a mark on every other life that crosses my path every day. And those marks, built up over time, add up to a legacy that's far more lasting and powerful than a successful business, an estate on the lake or a multi-million dollar portfolio.
As with all things relational, I can either let my relational legacy happen by accident, or choose to be intentional about it. For me, the latter is almost always the more powerful and life-giving way.
So, what about you? What kind of mark are you leaving on the people in your world? If you aren't sure, maybe it's time to ask a few of them. And if you haven't already, take some time to think about the kind of relational legacy you want to create with your life.