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It Adds Up Fast

February 17, 2023
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What is my legacy?

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This one gets me every time. Every time I read a story about someone that got it wrong and wished they hadn’t. Every time I hear a friend talk about that thing they missed and I hear the sadness in their voice. Every time I sit down at the end of the day and can’t pinpoint what exactly I accomplished. These are personal reflections of regret and moments of nostalgia about a memory we did not choose. These are the fleeting instances when we get it, when the point is clear, when we know where we should be going and what we should be doing. And yet somehow, those realizations fade away so quickly in these busy lives. How do we miss it?

Before we know it, our legacy consists of our children’s opinions that we work too much or our distant marriage as ships passing in opposite directions on a fast-moving waterway. Our love becomes shallow, our faith trickles in a flood of busy days, and our dreams and hope fade into a faraway distance we used to be so familiar with. We occasionally wake up and look around, measuring the existence of our lives, and wonder how we got here.

For me, I got here one decision at a time.

One more hour on that project. One more battle with the cable people on the phone. One more committee at church. One more show before I doze off in exhaustion. The one more instances of our lives add up faster than we think.

They add up to less.

One less conversation with my children about their dreams. One less day I live from a lifetime of living by snack and telly. One less memory of my husband. One less burst of laughter and relief from perfection with my friends. One less prayer. One less person told about the beauty of grace.

I wish I could see it all the time instead of these tiny wake-up moments when I suddenly get it—when I clearly know this is no way to live. I would give anything to hold on to that reality as I watch the days of my life pass through my fingers like sand.

The only thing I know to do is to ask myself this question as often as I can. To measure my motives and choices by the sum I want to see instead of by the multiplication of a to-do list that takes that time from me faster and faster. What is my legacy? What do I want to be known for? What gifts am I granting to those closest to me? What matters? What doesn’t?

This is a question that brings the heat to my life. It brings a goal to measure by, but it requires hard answers and even harder decisions. But if I don’t keep asking it, I will just keep experiencing these revelations of remorse after the moment has passed my busy self right on by. So, I ask it again and again. What is my legacy? What is my legacy?

Before it fades away fast, ask what is yours?

Shannon Leach is a slice-of-life encouragement writer and the owner of A Repurposed Heart and ARH Inspirations. Her authentic stories and books about leadership, life, and loving people focus on encouraging others and reminding them they are not alone. Her work can also be found in Guideposts and multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is the co-founder of the nonprofit The Fostered Gift.
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