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Determine the legacy you leave behind

M y parents cared enough to teach me principles that kept me from getting into trouble, like an electric-shock collar keeps a dog in his own yard. This upbringing provided a moral compass that says, “It is not honorable to go beyond this point.” I always felt that I didn’t want to do anything that would spoil my parents’ confidence in me.

Of course, people sometimes get off track. But you have to come back, commit to doing right, and to being the person you intend to be. If you wonder whether an action or opportunity is right or wrong, it’s probably wrong. I intentionally avoid like the plague any hint of scandal. I don’t even know how to get into our company’s

post office box or the safe in the business office. I have no need to know.

I am uncomfortable when people hand me cash money they are gifting for Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH). One time a guy shoved

four one-hundred dollar bills into my hand after I’d spoken in his church. Those bills weighed heavy in my pocket all the way home until I could get them processed through our accounting department.

To claim any such gifts for myself has never been a temptation. I never had the internal conversation that “no one will know if I just use that money for myself.” It would haunt me. You just can’t yield.

Once you start down that slippery slope, it’s easy to justify doing it again, and operating that way could work itself into your mind and taint your legacy.

I’ve continued the vision that our founder John Mills cast. He left an incredible legacy and I’ve treated it as a precious jewel, polishing it,

and keeping it safe. To that end, I’ve been asking myself certain questions to focus on in my remaining career years.

  • Did I put into place a method of operation that will endure and continue to give opportunity to all to achieve their dreams?

  • Will I leave behind an institution that has moved beyond custodial care to tap the creative genius that lies at the heart of every child?

  • Have I inspired other people to dedicate themselves to achieving things of lasting value that will live into succeeding generations?

  • Have I put into place a “culture of excellence” rooted deeply enough that new staff and new leadership will be committed to replicate and expand its successes?

  • Have I cultivated new donors and secured their commitment to BCH’s ongoing success and financial vitality?

  • Have I built a legacy worth remembering?

People tend to think about legacy in the final years of their career. That’s too late because you started laying bricks on your legacy years ago. You started building that legacy when you started your career.

I know that is true; however, I just started considering this legacy in the past few years. Until then, I just worked at the task before me, doing my job, giving it my best shot, remaining open to the Spirit, willing to take risks, seeking to be creative, measuring the costs. Then, at a certain point, I realized that my stamp is going to be on

BCH for a good while.

You need to ask yourselves now: “What do I want to build?” Don’t let your legacy be built on the random accumulation of acts and facts, plum and glum jobs, successes and digresses that your career will naturally take.

What do you want to do with yourself?

What do you want to accomplish?

What dried footprint in the muddy bottom of time do you want to leave? Yes, when all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

One Sunday, I was part of a large BCH group presenting at a local Baptist church. I emceed the program, and that calls me to be attentive to the moment. I recall one little five-year-old boy in

our care who never took his eyes off me. I asked him to come across the platform and give me a high five and he came running. His name was Ethan and he looks just like Ralphie from the perennial “A Christmas Story” movie. I began to interview him and he was like a 35-year-old.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a weatherman,” he replied.

That’s all it took, he captivated the entire congregation. The Spirit led and those attending were enthralled, and Ethan ate it up, responding to their vocal encouragement with growing confidence and cuter responses. I stepped back and let a child lead.

When church members recall this incident, what they are going to remember is that Ethan stole the show. These children are my legacy. I can lay my head down at night and sleep blissfully.

Your legacy is built like success is built—by doing the next thing well with passion and inspired creativity. Determine how you

will impact others today. What will your legacy be?

Written by Michael C. Blackwell, President/CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer)

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