You have a life story. Giving is part of your
story—a part of your legacy. First, let’s talk
about your legacy.
The person you are becoming is as important as the person
you were yesterday, last year or a decade ago. The life story
you weave changes as events change us. Perhaps your life
story changed even more as the pandemic changed how we
work, play, socialize, shop and worship. As this year comes
to a close and the next begins, it is a perfect time to look
back at the story your life has become—while peering into
the foggy future.
Our lives swing between good and bad moments, successes
and failures and from the easiest to the most significant
challenges. Our life story is not found in the highs and lows.
It happens somewhere in-between. The legacy we leave are
the actions—the examples we set—intended and unintended.
Legacy is a fuzzy word with legal and formal definitions that
leave most of us untouched. It might be an inheritance of
property or money left in an estate, or just left in a bank
account. It could be a purposeful gift, a family tradition passed
down from one generation to the next, or the opportunity
to attend a college as a legacy student just because a parent
attended before you.
Lost in those definitions are the rich stories intertwined with
what was given or left behind. The stories are the real legacy.
Every single person you know, read or hear about has a legacy.
And until the day that person takes their last breath on this
earth, they are crafting the next chapter.
Inspiring and real-life stories fill the pages of this magazine.
As readers, it is easy to empathize with the ups and downs
of their lives and even admire their decisions. Every single
story in this issue is only a part of that person’s legacy, just
as your story is only a part of the legacy you are leaving right
now. Since your real legacy is not only about your past, but
equally about your future, you have an opportunity to set a
new course or make a small shift. Right now, might be your
best opportunity to do a reset.
I started reading biographies as soon as I was old enough to
pick out my books. I am fascinated by the lives of others. I
am keenly interested in the differences between life stories
written as biographies and those same life stories written as
autobiographies. The legacy a person hopes to leave is most
likely found in the autobiography, while the legacy they left
is in the stories described through other eyes. Any writer
will tell you, the best place to start understanding someone
is from the stories they wrote and left behind along with
the real-life example of actions and decisions.
Start your autobiography by answering these questions:
• As you look back at your life, what were the high
points and the low points?
• If there was a moment of transition, what was it?
Your choice or caused by outside forces?
• Can you look back and see clear turning points
• What was the most meaningful moment of your life?
• What cause did you give to by volunteering or making
financial gifts? Why did you care about the cause?
Remember, your legacy is the many actions that surround all
those events. Look at your answers, take another piece of paper
and explain how each affected your actions and decisions.
Now you’re well into chapter two of your autobiography.
If you are breathing, you are crafting your story—your
legacy. So, what if you want to change your story, add to
your legacy? What do you want to be a part of your story
you’ve yet to act out?
Every day, we hear and read predictions about the changes
growing out of this pandemic. For most of us, the word
pandemic was merely part of an occasional history lesson.
I’ve grown weary of new normal talk. I like a different word
thrown around right now. It draws me to the possibility of
what can be: a reset. Reset is not a do-over. It’s a change, like
an alteration, a reformation, a remodel. It starts right where
you are and looks to a future you want to create. It’s resetting
your current self, becoming what is remembered.
Giving is often a central theme of legacy discussions, centering
on the legal details of a bequest or estate planning. It focuses
on the details of leaving something behind: giving valuables,
property, money, and real estate. Still looking backward, it
represents a small fraction of your real legacy.
What role do you want giving to play in your legacy story
looking forward? Does giving look like volunteering at
nonprofits serving others, donating to favorite causes, serving
on community boards? Is giving connected to your faith? Is
giving the act of informally sharing what you have learned
with family and friends, or audiences small or large. Writing
The reset opportunity is before us. Now, is our chance to
imagine the unlived legacy and then craft intentional actions
for the future.
Bruce Feller, the author of Life is in the Transitions, says people
choose different shapes that represent the patterns of our lives
when asked to describe their life story.
I interviewed a couple who visualized their giving as a river
that ran through different causes in different ways and at
different times. Sometimes a slow-moving lazy river giving as
opportunities arose, other times, fast and full of rapids, giving
to get something done or be a part of immediate impact.
The giving season is upon us, and we have many opportunities
to connect with the causes we care about. Every gift is part of
your story—it is like a river that runs through your legacy,
slow or fast, it is your story—your legacy. You decide.
Dawn Franks, the author of the e-book Giving Fingerprints, is
CEO of Your Philanthropy. She provides high touch advising
services to families, businesses, and foundations to enhance
the giving experience and maximize impact.