Monday, January 29, 2007

Leaving a Legacy

As I approach the mid-century mark in age (cut me open and count the rings), I am rediscovering (refiguring?) a sense of call for my life. By call, I mean my perception of what it is that God wants me to do with the rest of my days here on this planet.

I got the essence of the thoughts below from my friend Al Lunsford's project,
Inside Work. As a result of reading this great blog, I have discovered something new.

I want to develop, in my family and myself, a sense of “third generation vision.” Third generation vision is easily described in child-rearing terms. My wife and I are attempting to raise two wonderful girls, Kelly and Heather, If we simply had “first generation vision” as parents, we would be satisfied if our children did as they were told, minded their manners, spoke when spoken to, didn’t do anything to embarrass us and covered up any obvious hygiene problems. First generation vision is parenting for my personal convenience and near term objectives.

Unfortunately, this was largely the perspective of my parents. This was mostly the credo of their generation, not necessarily their fault. As a result, I have spent much of the last 25 years relearning what being a man, a husband, and a parent means. If I am thinking only in a "first generation" context, as long kids do as they are told and don’t create problems, everything is fine. Until, one day, everything isn’t fine.

Parents with “second generation vision” see their responsibilities differently. They want to raise their children in such a way that the kids become good citizens, good spouses, good parents, good neighbors, good leaders and contributors to society. Any time you see such a parent, commend them. The same goes for leaders of every sort.

Then, there are parents who strive for a greater perspective: "third generation vision.” As I think about my own girls, I’m learning to stop and ask, "How do I raise them in such a way that my grandchildren will be great citizens, husbands, wives, parents, neighbors, leaders and contributors?"

Now, faced with a parental leadership issue, I try (read: try) back up and consider how I can leverage the situation to build the wisdom, character, and ability of my kids so that their kids will make a difference.

Its about leaving a legacy. But not a legacy with my name on it, like some kind of museum or monument. A living legacy about love, and humor, and caring, and making the world a better place, for generations, not just in my lifetime.

Here is my worst nightmare: Somerset Maugham, in his novel Of Human Bondage, described an aging couple saying, “They had done nothing, and when they went it would be just as if they had never been.” And so, I am acting in fear of this result, the last thing I want is this epitaph for my life. Call me a chicken, but this is the kind of chicken I want to be.

I think my second half, as long as I have left to go, is going to be a challenge, sometimes maddening, but a blast!
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