Leaving a Legacy that Matters
December 16, 2022
Ugochi Guchy Kalu (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer
The concept of generativity and narcissism can make legacy seem either selfish or selfless. Since legacy is not neutral, I’d completely agree to define legacy as self-centered if only one is focused on achieving a reputation, name, infrastructures or just financial wealth. Legacy is inescapable as we will all leave behind something when we are gone. The most important question is; How do we build the kind of legacy we want to be remembered for?
A few years ago, I encountered a communal narcissist whose legacy was somewhat controversial as many people had varying opinions about the real intentions behind all his deeds. While everyone abroad sang his praises and nearly built an altar of worship in his name, his community, family and close friends felt entirely the opposite. His family had no good thing to say about him, there was no record of his goodness towards the people that mattered. Indeed, he was a narcissist whose legacy was self centered and intended for public approval rather than doing good just for the sake of it.
Dr Clarke was a well known great man who amassed wealth through his numerous business conglomerates. He became so popular that two out of five billboards and business magazines had his face or business logo on them. No tour to his home town would be complete without a visit to his palatial mansion whose architectural design is magnificent. As popular and as rich in wealth as he was, sadly, there was no significant impact he made towards humanity. His staff would always describe him as a tyrant, who would demean anyone beneath him. He never offered scholarships, never participated in communal development projects nor reached out to his immediate family. Strange how people who are farther away idolized him as a generous philanthropist.
Dr Clarke passed away a few years ago and no one attended his funeral except for a few business colleagues and strangers from abroad. His tribute was empty as no one had any good memory of him. His funeral was nothing less than ordinary for a man of his status. It was indeed a regretful and historically sad day as family, friends, staff, recounted their personal bitter experiences and thought that his death was a good riddance.
Converse to this event, I recalled when Brother Stanley from my Mum’s hometown passed. The entire village was thrown into mourning, everyone was sad, wailed, screamed their lungs out in protest. Some blamed God for taking him away while some painfully offered to die in his stead if that were possible. I could not understand what he did to merit such a show of love from everyone, he was neither rich nor influential. It was during his funeral that I gained clarity of what his life represented.
Stanley had no material riches, but he was rich in love and kindness. He was a gift that kept giving. He helped the elderly in farm activities for free, was a son to all the widows, gave free lessons to the teenagers at the local school, rebuilt fallen fireplaces, gave free rides to school children at the back of his motorbike and would single handedly sandfill potholes on the major roads to allow motorist easy access. Such and more were the testaments of people in their tribute to him. It was magical to see the entire community declare a mandatory mourning holiday that no one objected to. His life was a mirror that pointed out the inadequacies of others just by a quick glance. There were simply no words to describe his character that would do justice to how much of an impact he made in the shortest period he lived.
He was sent off to the great beyond in the most honorable way possible, his funeral was a solemn assembly that translated into a moment of sober reflection for many, myself included. It was at that moment that I clearly understood the true meaning of selflessness and true service to humanity.
I dare say that the richest legacies aren’t triumphant biographies, palaces or inscriptions on buildings, they are rather the inscriptions of love inside the hearts of those we have served. In the final analysis, nobody really cares about the extent of your status, prestige or material wealth, they care about your contributions and impact to their lives, because legacy lives through people and not just through results. Your positive impacts will ripple far beyond generations if we cared about living lives of higher purpose.
There are numerous people whose legacies and contributions to the society have been nothing but selfless, sacrificial, endearing, hope-bound and empowering. These people ideally understood what it means to give back without expectations. Public acceptance and praises were not the motivations behind their acts. These people understood necessities, inventions, development, growth, progression and were inspired by doing good. Their hallmark is often to be remembered for the positive outcome of their decisions rather than the gratifications and awards that followed. These are great philanthropists, educators, inventors, leaders, coaches, spiritual enlighteners, presidents, freedom fighters, abolitionists, mentors and change agitators. Indeed, the greatest legacy anyone could have, is a life that was lived in fulfillment of purpose and one that points towards positive reinforcement.
My name is Ugochi Guchy Kalu, I believe that we are but footsteps in the sands of time, to be washed away. In the meantime, let us serve with detachment!
My name is Ugochi Guchy Kalu, I have lived in a bubble and also experienced real life hurt. I pulled through the toughest times through acceptance and a positive outlook. Stay positive, pals!
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