This year is starting with several legends that recently passed. If you think about the accomplishments of Betty White and Sidney Poitier, you might have their performances pop into your mind. Yet, both of these folks ignited changes with different causes. Ms. White brought awareness of the needs of animals to the forefront, while Mr. Poitier brought about changes in the world of racism. “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” ignited a firestorm of controversy and was not only ahead of its time, but it was a needed conversation that paved the way for many of our leaders today. However, you don’t have to be a celebrity to be a legend. These two are only a couple of standouts, and they meant a lot to us. But, what about the people who work behind the scenes in life?
A legend can be anyone or anything that leaves an imprint behind. The thing about legends is that the stories often have a grain of truth, but there is so much information left out because the retelling of those stories fades over time, and only fragments remain. Take, for instance, William Shakespeare. His works live on over 400 years after his life, but does anyone know how he lived? Some say he was gay even though he left his wife the bed in his will; others say he fought with depression and anxiety because he often wrote about suicide. I thought it was interesting that he switched from writing plays to sonnets because there was a time where the theaters shut down, and the poems were an alternative. I guess some things in history repeat because many theaters shut down during the pandemic and new art styles emerged.
If you think about it, every town, city, state, and country has people that have left an indelible mark on their history. Teachers and coaches play a significant role in the lives of their students, and those students grow in various careers and paths that leave impressions. Stadiums often reflect those actions in their names. Scholarships and other programs often play integral parts of learning for others because of people who came before them. One of my classmates lost his sister to a car accident in high school. His family created a scholarship in her memory, and it has given many students a chance to further their education. Kim may not be alive physically, but the gift and legacy she leaves behind touches several lives along the way. I’m grateful that Todd and his family could do this for others.
When my father passed away, my mom and I created a scholarship program for students who might go into seminary an opportunity to travel to Bethlehem. My father said more than once that anyone considering they might want to go into a pastoral role should go there at least once. It changed my father’s life forever. Dad felt a Holy connection there, unlike anywhere else in the world. He always felt God was with him, but he indicated that Jerusalem was unique. He told me that you could almost see how Jesus lived without physically seeing. Visiting the Holy Land was something that Dad said was like being a part of a living legend.
When Nelson Mandela died, I was in the process of leaving South Africa. I remember looking in awe at the country he fought for and the issues he brought to light. His passion for education still trickles down throughout the country from his foundation that lives on even after death. I use the names of these people because they are ones that many people identify with when we speak of legends. I mean, think about it. In the world of sports, many people recognize the names of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, James Worthy, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, and so on. But in your life, who can you say are legends to you? What imprints have they left behind that mean the most to you?
Legends that pass down throughout time mean things to me because of the history they provide. I’m writing about legends today because, with the passing of Bob Saget, I see my childhood dissipating before my eyes. Many people I grew up watching and admiring are now meeting their demise. Some have fought many demons along the way, and others appear to live life seamlessly. Mr. Poitier dealt with enough demons of discrimination, race issues, and many other aspects in his life. He remained humble until his death. If I’ve learned anything from folks like him, it’s that we should never take anything for granted. We can’t afford to take one another for granted, nor can we afford to take the gifts we receive as a guarantee. Nothing is guaranteed.
All anyone can do is live life to the fullest and treat people as kindly as possible. When we leave our imprints on others, we contribute to legendary status. It doesn’t matter if we are a celebrity or not. What matters is that we do the things we love, treat people well, and help others along the way. As a whole, we may not ever reach the fame and fortune that others have, but we all inspire others with our actions. Legends only exist because of the people who left reminders along the way. Make the moments in life count. You never know; you may become a legend to others down the road. Have a great day, everyone.