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Live a legacy to be remembered

As he neared the end of his life and career, John Claypool, one of the best preachers ever grown in the Baptist garden, said the day eventually comes to each of us when we realize we have more sunsets then sunrises in our future.

While that doesn’t make any sense when you know each day has both a sunrise and sunset, the sentiment is true. You reach a point when you realize that you’d better wrap up your projects. The time for starting new things is growing short. The curtain is dropping on your play and you’re not getting cast in a new production.

It’s the time when thoughts of your mortality creep in and you consider what you’re leaving behind. You wonder how you’ll be remembered. You think about your legacy.

Every day giants pass from the earth. They leave this life—sometimes suddenly—and we analyze their impact on art, music, industry, education, sports, government, and service to humanity. Or they finish a career, slip a gold watch onto their wrist and then read with others the reviews about how they influenced the way

we live our lives.

Consider volumes on Lincoln, Churchill, Kennedy, and every military and political world leader whose decisions changed the course of world events as if they were a large rock dropped suddenly in a local fishing pond. These definitive biographies are written after the subject’s death—their legacy in the hands of others, to evaluate, interpret, and define.

You are thriving at the peak of your career and in family and

spiritual life, you’ve probably thought about your legacy for some years. If not, consider that building your legacy starts within the context of the life you’re living right now.

Should you care about your legacy? Of course. First, understand that you will leave a legacy, whether or not you’re conscious of establishing it. That is, unless you were born in isolation and raised by wild animals like Romulus and Remus of ancient Roman myth, or like Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli from The Jungle Book. On second thought, I guess they DID leave a legacy! So, there’s no escaping it.

Secondly, you can, like many highly-accomplished men and women who have gone before you, live distinctly aware that you are growing a legacy—for good or ill, for a day or a century—

and consciously live to leave the world a better place for your having been an occupant. Your life matters. Your life is a legacy. Live like it.

Your legacy is the script you’re writing on the pages of history; the difference you make that at some point in someone’s life will prompt a memory of you. You want that memory to be positive.

How do you leave a positive legacy? Ask yourself, “What can I do to make life better for others?”

I try to be a realist. I’ve been a radio DJ, a newspaper journalist, a television anchor, a youth minister, and pastor of churches. I’m

a father, husband, grandfather, friend. For others, I’m an author, speaker, neighbor, boss, and chief encouragement officer. So, what will be my legacy?

I think my legacy started to take shape in 1970 at Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh where I was minister to youth and college students. I have a legacy there that is regularly renewed

because I stay in touch with many of the “kids”—now senior adults—who were college students when I was their minister. One of them was an executive with CNN, and when his mother and

father died within a few weeks of each other, I called him to express my love and concern and to share memories.

“You’ll never know what that call meant,” he told me. “When I was in your youth group, it was the first time in my life that I felt like ’somebody.’ Your affirmation and belief in me will always be a part of my life.”

My body of work has established me as a person of positive influence in others’ lives. I say that in all humility because this really is the first time in my life that this only child, who was blessed with a resonant voice, a tender heart, and a strong mind, has realized that people look up to me just because of who I am. You’d think

I would have more self-confidence than that, that I would have shouldered the public perception of “president” and expected people to respond to the position and to me as the one who holds it.

But, no. It took decades of hard work, a trail of successes, a consistent life, and faithful service to reach that point. And I’m only just realizing it. I imagine that whoever defines my legacy for

the next generation will focus on my work as president of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina since 1983. For sure, I will leave a legacy. I’m aware that I don’t control the interpretation of that legacy. For certain, I want it to be positive.

How about you? When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?

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

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