I heard a statement today and it struck a chord, an unpleasant chord within me. “Legacy is never guaranteed.”
A search of modern dictionaries for the word ‘legacy’ each focuses on an inheritance, money, a gift, property left to someone in a will. Not until you reach into the Cambridge Dictionary and seek for older meanings do you read, “… something that is part of your history that remains from an earlier time.“
No doubt the legacy which concerns me in this endeavor is certainly something that is a gift, it is something that is left to the next generation, and inheritance of a non-material kind. The interesting things about typical legacies, the gifts of money or property that are left to others through an estate is they can be squandered. How often do you hear of the millionaire heiress who finds herself penniless and without her mansions because her lifestyle brought it all to nothing? The cause of such waste is simple. The person who received the gift put no real worth in it from the standpoint of legacy. It wasn’t something special left to them by someone who loved them, but it was their due, their expected payment for being only the daughter or granddaughter, son, or grandson, or simply just heir to the deceased. The only value in it was what it could get for them now, right away without concern for the future or any intrinsic value the gift may have held. There is truth in the adage which says the value something holds to the owner is directly proportional to the work he put into achieving it. Legacy’s run the risk of not having to be worked for.
Consider the maxim which I mentioned earlier and from which I will build a response on how best to overcome it. “Legacy is never guaranteed. Without ways to pass down values, customs, intricate, specific information, ways of doing things, traditions, so that the next generation can master their skills, perfect their craft, know – even own their values… Legacy Will End.” Stay with me on this for the response is worth the wait, I promise.
My initial reaction to the statement legacy is never guaranteed was one of incredulity. Legacy seems, in the word itself, to be built in strength, to be timeless and to be so solidly based it cannot fall. My mind went, of course, to the charitable organization my son Daniel has founded, Legacy of Honor. How could such a legacy as Daniel describes in his treatise on the founding be so easily lost? It was as I considered just that point, the type of legacy that Legacy of Honor portrays may not be immune from the death knoll for many organizations but the legacy that is within the Legacy of Honor has within its DNA the microscopic weaponry and armies needed to combat being overthrown. The best way to describe what I mean is to go back to Daniel’s tattoo from where the inspiration came for the name Legacy of Honor.
On the very top of the tattoo is the banner, Legacy of Honor. Directly beneath the banner is the tribute to my father’s (Daniel’s grandfather’s) service in the U.S. Navy during WWII. Beneath that is my service in the Air Force from the end of Vietnam through much of the Cold War. Finally, is Daniel’s own service with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne. Do you see the difference between this legacy and the one described by the modern dictionaries? It is right there and clear to see.
The honor that was passed from my father to me and then to my son was in part a gift of who my father was. He held the honor and only he could pass it on. However, he also earned the honor by his valiant service from his volunteering immediately after Pearl Harbor and through his injuries at D-Day. He passed along that honor, which was his to pass, that intrinsic set of values which was part of who he was. He could not though just pass the action, the response such integrity and honor require. It must be taken hold of by the next generation and responded to with the next’s own commitment to uphold. It requires action on the part of each generation to uphold it. When I was able to pass the honor of service to my son, it was incumbent upon him to also take hold of it, to respond to it and to act upon it.
When such action is required, the value of the gift is multiplied astronomically. Without getting into theology here, just a quick aside that such is not the same for the gift of grace God gives because the action, all the action was completed by Christ so we cannot add to it. That is completely different than the topic here. This human gift of honor, from father to son or from mother to daughter, mother to son, whatever; does require action on the part of the recipient. They must value it. They must incorporate the values of it into their actions. They must live the honor. They will then commit to uphold it to the last human measure of devotion and it was upon such an oath that the value of the honor was known.
Look again at the last part of the maxim we are studying. “…Without ways to pass down values, customs, intricate – specific information, ways of doing things, traditions, so that the next generation can master their skills, perfect their craft, know – even own their values… Legacy Will End.” As incredulous as I was at the outset, my reflection and study has proven the maxim to be true. ‘Legacy is never guaranteed.’ The recourse is in the action verbs used in the second part of the maxim itself. Pass, master, perfect, know, own each of these are the key.
Each generation must pass to the next the values, customs, intricate – specific information, ways of doing things, traditions. Without passing down these key parts of our culture, our society, our heritage, legacy cannot be guaranteed. But then it still must be acted upon. The receiving generation must master and perfect what they do, and they must come to know, to own the all-important why of why they do what they do and why they believe what they believe. When they do, they will pass on to their next generation everything that is needed to keep the legacy alive. Legacy is never guaranteed but a Legacy of Honor is of such value, it must never be left to die.