The other day I was speaking to a friend about the challenges of going through the probate process of my mother’s estate. The settling of her estate involves lawyers, courts, documents, and meticulous record keeping. Now I am no slouch when it comes to documentation and filing, but even I have found the probate process daunting. There is a property involved, but strangely that is not what my mother left to me that I found valuable. I had the realization that it was not money and property that were the most important things in a family’s legacy. The things that have enhanced and added to my family’s success here been education, delayed gratification, vision, faith, tenacity, good intentions, and most importantly love.
Both my mother and father’s sides of the family hail from rural Jamaica. This is not their original ancestral home. My mother’s family hails from the horn of Africa. My father’s DNA is obscured by the European slave owners in our family tree. Nonetheless, they each inherited property form their parents. Each property was hard won through sweat equity and sacrifice.
Education is probably the most powerful legacy that has been gifted to me from my parents and handed down from my ancestors. There is more to education than books. There is also the gift of knowing how to create a semblance of safety so that a family can survive in a hostile world. Scholarly success was always emphasized in my family whether you had chores or not. Clearing land and feeding hogs did not get you out of homework completion. I know that the emphasis on academic and trade success took this family from rural Jamaica one room school houses to Harvard Business School in one generation.
The ability to delay gratification is more than the stuff of children denying themselves a marshmallow. The ability to deny oneself the bright and shiny over the authentic and substantial was embedded in our family fabric. We were not necessarily cool, but we were grounded. Being able to see the big picture is a training event. Only some can see in a global manner at an early age. This gift is indeed a great legacy keeping people out of harms way.
Vision is a miraculous gift to pass down as well. Everyone can use a true north. When you grow up in a house with expectations for you wrapped love, you drink the family kool aid. Vision without coercion allows individuals to express themselves and contribute to the family’s well being. Striving for what is not obvious isa skill worthy of any family.
Faith no matter what denomination is a great gift to give to oneself as well as pass down to one’s children. There is something very powerful about a family experiencing great life lessons as one on a recurring basis (aka as church or worship). Faith is a tool that when well honed can carry anyone through difficult times. Faith allows one to stand by a conviction or hardship with the knowledge that you are not alone. What gift could be better than that.
Along with faith, tenacity or steadfastness is a legacy worth passing on. Standing for a principle or a pursuit that may work out favorably is something that must be taught. Successful individuals learn that anything worth having involves hard work and dedication. What better place to witness the struggle than within your own family. Seeing the real life applications of hands on work authentically proves that hard work is its own reward.
Good intentions embody so many character traits that are positive attributes to pass down. Projects and ventures don’t always work out, but if the intention is steeped in positive, loving, and affirming ideas, the endeavors will always have positive side benefits. For example if a family’s intention is to starts a restaurant to showcase their cuisine and supply gainful employment for several people and their family. If said restaurant closes for whatever reason then if it closes there will be some collateral bonuses. For example the children may witness the process of building a dream and be inspired. Many relationships may be started leading to a more successful venture. Or ultimately, this may be time well spent for everyone in the family.
Lastly, love is the most important thing to pass down. Love makes all of the other legacies that I have discussed become life affirming and illuminated with warmth. The ability to love is something to be taught and passed down and around. A well loved human being is the finest legacy that a family can produce. If you don’t believe me just observe the damage that unloved humans can wreak on others and this planet. Forget Aunt Harriet’s pearls, love is what you want to leave behind.