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At the end of the year and now the beginning of another, I have been writing about the value of creating a legacy and of establishing tributes. Since legacy work is an important part of living a life that matters, it is never too early to think about the difference we are making and the memories that we are leaving behind. As I said in a previous post, research says that most people fear being forgotten. When we live on in the memories of others, then we are remembered.
Legacies can be negative so it would be wise to be cognizant of the fact that people remember the good things we do and the not so good. So how do we want to be remembered?
For the month of October, Caribou Coffee had a poster in their stores with the following message:
About Amy 1995
Amy Erickson, out beloved Roastmaster, loved life, laughter, and of course, coffee. In fact, the craft-roasting standards she established still make our coffee what it is today. When Amy began her fight with breast cancer, we created Amy's Blend to help with her medical bills. We now bring this special blend back yearly in memory of Amy–and to help find a cure. Here's to Amy!
(There was a great photo of Amy on the poster and a short message about Amy on each coffee cup jacket during October.)
What struck me about this short tribute, was how I felt I knew Amy after reading it. These few words communicated so much about her spirit, commitment, and the legacy people remembered about her. A tradition has been created so that each October, Amy is remembered by those who knew her and even by those (such as me) who did not.
Another tribute in December caught my attention. My husband and I went to a basketball game at the University of Iowa. While my husband was busy watching the game, I was observing the cheerleaders and reading the program. Toward the back of the program there was a page dedicated to the Chris Street Award. The first paragragh said:
"The Chris Street Award, named in honor of former Hawkeye Chris Street, is presented annually to 'A Hawkeye who best exemplifies the spirit, enthusiasm, and intensity of Chris Street.' Street died in an auto accident January 19, 1993, 15 games into his junior season as an Iowa Hawkeye."
Then there were three paragraphs talking about his basketball accomplishments in such a short time. And the last paragraph said:
"It didn't matter how well you knew Chris Street. Maybe you were lucky enough to work with Chris everyday in practice. Maybe as a Hawkeye fan you enjoyed watching Chris play the 73 games of his Iowa career. Maybe you only saw him play one game as a Hawkeye. Maybe you never saw Chris play basketball at all and only knew him as a young, vibrant college student. Whether you knew him for years or only met him once, he left an indelible impression. For those of us who knew him, there are memories that will last forever.
Reverend David C. Bayne, in his eulogy, said it best: There wasn't a phony bone in his body … he was pure gold."
Since I went to college with the father of Chris, I remember right where I was when I heard the news about the accident involving Chris Street. The whole state of Iowa was mourning this loss of such a promising young life. A friend of ours from Chicago said that in the Chicago Tribune there was an article about Chris where the bus driver of the team bus told how Chris would write thank you notes to the drivers for getting them to and from games safely.
With this tribute and scholarship, people will remember Chris Street. He left a legacy.
I often think:
For what do I want to be remembered?
What will people say about me after I am gone?
I encourage my leadership students and participants in workshops that these are questions we should think about daily in order to keep our actions aligned with the vision we have for ourselves.