On my morning run today I listened to a sermon that asked the question, “What do you want to be known for?” I thought through this question and how I would want it answered for my life.
It then struck me for the first time that my granddaughter’s children will know very little about me except whatever they are told. For the most part, I will likely be just a name on a chart tracing back on their family tree.
Not that it’s a big deal, but it reminds me how temporary I am in this world. With my granddaughter at five months old and me at 64 years old, it is possible that the day will arrive that I meet a great grandchild, but these odds are at best 50/50. And if that day happens, my great grandchild will not have time to form his own opinion of who I am.
That child at some point will learn my name and what I was known for, but probably little more. My great grandchild, when he grows up, will be busy in his life with his job and spouse and children of his own. What does it matter to him what this gray haired man writing this column does or doesn’t do in the years that he had in his life?
There will be all new people in this world 100 years from now. Each of you reading this will have passed on along with me. So the time we have is a gift, however that looks to you. We can’t stop time, but we do choose what we do with it, just like the approximately 117 billion other people who have walked this earth.
The childbirth class my wife and I attended before our children were born addressed the passage of time. The last words spoken in the class were a song by singer and songwriter Harry Chapin titled “Cat’s in the Cradle.” It is a powerful story that teaches each of us about the importance of the use of time and parenting in just a few minutes.
Harry Chapin was a storyteller who put his stories to music. His life ended too early at age 38 in a firey traffic collision, but his stories live on.
Back in 1972 he released a folk song called “All My Life’s a Circle.” It was from the album “Sniper and Other Love Songs.” He did not know when he recorded this song that it would be sung at his funeral less than ten years later. The song goes as follows:
“All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown. Moon rolls thru the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around.
“All my life’s a circle, but I can’t tell you why. Season’s spinning round again, the years keep rollin’ by.
“It seems like I’ve been here before, I can’t remember when. But I have this funny feeling, that we’ll all be together again.
“No straight lines make up my life, and all my roads have bends;
“There’s no clear-cut beginnings, and so far no dead-ends. I found you a thousand times, I guess you done the same;
“But then we lose each other, it’s like a children’s game. As I find you here again, a thought runs through my mind;
“Our love is like a circle, let’s go ‘round one more time.”
Harry Chapin’s tombstone in Huntington, New York reads “1942-1981, OH IF A MAN TRIED TO TAKE HIS TIME ON EARTH AND PROVE BEFORE HE DIED WHAT ONE MAN’S LIFE COULD BE WORTH, I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THIS WORLD.”
We are all a part of the circle of life. Others who have gone before us passed the torch to us and in our lives we pass the torch to those who follow. What torch are you passing on?
We will all be known for something.
Each of us has the opportunity to leave a legacy and to leave this world a better place than the world we were born into.
Those of us in the downhill stage of our lives will likely not be remembered ten decades from now. But we have the ability to make an impact today and our impact today in the life of just one other will impact the future world.
It’s like dropping a stone into a quiet lake. What we do sends ripples outwards in every direction. We don’t fully know the consequences of our actions. And that’s okay as long as our actions add value to the lives of others.
If you haven’t accomplished what your life will be known for, maybe you need to get off your rear and do something! That’s another Harry Chapin quote, “When in doubt, do something!”
Life is a circle. From sunrise to sundown. It is not made up of straight lines. Seasons keep spinning around us. Let’s go around one more time.
My challenge to you is to do the best you can to add value to the lives of others in the short time you have while living your circle. You will be known for what your live leaves behind in others when your last sunset arrives.
Just a thought...
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