Through the many years that I’ve been listening to grandparents share their hopes and dreams, their regrets and fears, the word “legacy” is one that comes up over and over. It’s a word that carries much weight and many meanings. Most of us, of course, are concerned about our legacy in its most tangible manifestation: a financial bequest or endowment. Regardless of our financial bracket, we hope to maximize whatever we may be able to pass down to our heirs.
The Grandest Love bespeaks an investment in grandchildren’s lives that goes beyond money. We hope that, in some way, the deepest principles that have guided our own lives, will be carried forth by them as they forge their unique paths into the future.
I’m sure I didn’t coin this phrase, but it captures the idea beautifully: we want to leave values, not only valuables.
I’m going to give you some ideas on how you can “bequeath” both values and valuables while you’re still around to enjoy it by working with your grandchildren to devise your own family’s “Living Legacy Foundation.”
Values and Valuables
But first: let’s explore what a legacy may mean. Once again I turn to author Stephen R. Covey:
There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase “to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution. (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989)
When it comes to values – are there any guarantees that our grandchildren will actually embrace our legacy? Will they proudly transmit our cultural heritage, abide by the traditions of the faith in which we raised them? Will they treasure our Bubbie’s handwritten recipe-book from the old country? Will they teach their children to love the Chicago Cubs? The reality is: there are no guarantees of any of it. Here’s the best we can do, the best that we can hope for:
- That through ongoing Teaching-And-Learning, throughout our lifetime, and by the example of how we’ve lived each day, our grandchildren will know what our values are, and why they matter to us so deeply; and even if they don’t share all of these values, or even agree with them, they will respect them.
- That they will grow into people of strong morals, passions, family-feeling and convictions – the kinds of people who will strive to leave behind their own enduring and meaningful legacies.
Naturally, in thinking about our legacy to our grandchildren, we must never ignore the powerful influence of the generation in between, our adult children – and the fact that the beliefs and values they wish to instill in their offspring, rightfully take precedence over ours. Adult children sometimes take paths that strongly diverge from how we raised them. It is terribly important never to undermine or criticize their way of life, through our words or actions. I don’t underestimate how difficult such situations can be – especially in regard to (for example) religious differences, when one generation or the other is extremely devout. Yet, in all faiths and belief-systems, “peace in the family, harmony in the home” is a core value. For us, as family elders, to steadfastly uphold this principle, may be the most important legacy we can leave.