On the Green: Passing along our personal legacy

Everyone has a legacy to pass along to the next generation. 

Is it a piece of family jewelry? Grandmother’s rocking chair? Oh, it’s got to be that tarnished silver teaspoon that’s been around for decades.

Blake Shelton sings about granddaddy’s cherished gun as a legacy.

But identifying your legacy might not be as easy as pulling boxes down from the attic. In fact, Forbes magazine lists 10 items or collections our kids don’t want around anymore. Stuff we might consider to be our legacy is viewed by the next generation as a curse.

So, we can forget about passing along books, family papers, steamer trunks, porcelain figurines, anything silver, heavy dark antique furniture, linens or china table settings, Forbes says.

While a legacy once was something handed down from one generation to the next, today’s legacy isn’t that, at all. A legacy is not stuff.

Legacy today is much more valuable than anything tangible. It’s more personal and shared with care. Our legacy is what we’re made of; how we live our lives; the stories we know and tell others; the blessing we receive from where we live and our life’s lessons.

A recent Facebook post said it simply and succinctly. Update your personal biography on paper, but also tell it to someone, sharing with others verbally. Your verbal history is lasting. If we don’t share to preserve our stories, others will make something up because they don’t know what’s real.

In our community, there is a genuine process, actually an organization, to honor and recognize those of us who ‘get it’ and have shared it. It’s called Legacy Keepers R Us.

Its mission is to preserve history one story at a time.

Legacy Keepers R Us is based on the importance of telling and sharing verbal stories. It behooves each of us to learn more about this organization and how it is preserving our past.

Legacy Keepers R Us preaches, “Let the work you do speak for you.” Of course, your story can’t speak to the next generation if we don’t speak out and share it with others.

Over the past week, Legacy Keepers R Us has honored individuals for “telling” their story. These legacy keepers include a retired librarian; a cemetery employee, a schoolteacher, an entrepreneur, a newspaper writer and others.

Their stories are fascinating. One teacher and her students regularly walk through the school studying the hallway trophy cases to learn stories and lessons contributed by past students.

Of course, brick and mortar museums in our culture play a critical role in preserving history. Museums allow us to learn. Muskogee has top-notch museums loaded with visual keepsakes and cultural treasures to appreciate.

Also, Muskogee has opened new people gathering spaces like the Depot District and Depot Green. History is all around us there.

Yet, rich personal experiences and traditions must be shared verbally, as well. Our personal legacy is our story.

My grandmother, who died in 1963, ‘texts’ me daily, if you will, through her diaries and from thousands of pages capturing her life’s experiences.

I don’t hear these stories in her voice. But I can read her words and attempt to ‘hear’ what she is saying. It’s the next best thing to hearing her speak, and this compels me to preserve her history, which is now mine.

We’re often asked to name somebody from the past we’d choose to sit down with for an hour or so for a chat. Perhaps it is Eleanor Roosevelt, Ghandi, Billy Graham, Mickey Mantle or Bud Wilkinson.

Closer to home, we have access to plenty of opportunities locally to sit and listen and ask questions of family members and others who provide inspiration to us.

Their stories tell how we came to be who we are. Contact grandma, great aunt Sally, a teacher, a leader in the church or community, the first person in the family to accomplish something that no one else has, or an inventor who has made life better.

William Shakespeare wrote, "friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears." Let’s all listen up, speak out and preserve our personal stories.

Andrea Chancellor has more than 20 years in newspaper and magazine journalism, and 20 years in corporate public relations. She serves on the Planning Committee for the Depot District and Depot Green.

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