A good friend of mine from our college days (good grief, that means a 50+ year relationship!) and I were chatting about how COVID is forcing conversations about the fragility of Life. We now know friends whose loved ones have perished as a result of COVID. She talked about personal legacies and why that matters, especially now.

I must confess, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about legacies, mine or others. But my friend  challenged me to reflect on this topic, so here goes. I tend to be less enchanted by grandiose views of legacies. I admire and applaud people who have made huge impacts on the quality of life for most people. I am awed by individuals who make tremendous sacrifices to advance values meaningful to them, whether it’s putting their lives on the line for a cause dear to them or forgoing social/financial rewards in order to work on something that has huge payoffs for society. At the same time, I think about ordinary people who are doing the best they can with what Life has given them.

I subscribe to the view that everyone’s life matters, and personal legacies revolve around the impact each of us makes in the course of our daily interactions with others. That means less focus on heroic actions, and more attention to small acts in the course of our daily life.  A life of purpose and meaning can be felt in those interactions. I think Emily Dickenson expressed this view best of all in a short poem noted below:

If I can keep one heart from breaking

I shall not live in vain.

If I can ease one life the aching

Or cool one pain

Or help a fainting robin unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

My best wishes to you and yours,


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