I am a fourth grade teacher. Every year my students read a book about a person who has impacted the world: Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, Jane Goodall, Bill Gates. They learn how to paraphrase material, take notes, and then they write a paper about their person’s life. Then they dress up accordingly, and present a memorized speech to the rest of the class and the parents.
This is one of my absolute favorite units to teach. The students learn that all across time and history, God has used many different people from every walk of life, with a range of abilities, for all different purposes. Each of these people leveraged their unique God-given gifts and talents to make a difference, and in doing so, made a great impact. Many of them struggled in doing so, but in the end, they knew who they were, did what they needed to do, and someone told their story.
Legacies that Inspire Us
Recently, we gathered in the family room around a crackling fire excited for family movie night. After scrolling through a handful of options, my husband chose Selma, the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 fight for voting rights. It is a beautiful depiction of when he bravely orchestrated and led a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
The movie inspired me. Why? Because Martin Luther King Jr. lived out his convictions without apology. He had to. He didn’t worry about what people thought. He didn’t sway off course because he was worried about his reputation. He put one foot in front of the other with his eyes fixed on what he knew was right. When he was a little boy, he told his mother that he wanted to “turn the world upside down”, and that’s exactly what he did.
Have you seen the Broadway musical Hamilton? Or listened to the soundtrack? One of my favorite songs is called “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” The song is told from Alexander Hamilton’s wife Eliza’s perspective. She outlived him by 50 years and among many things, became the founder of the first private orphanage in New York City.
She lived to tell Alexander’s story. He was one of our nation’s founding fathers and a revolutionist. His passion and pursuit led him to create the country’s financial system; he was said to write the Federalist Papers like he was “running out of time”. Alexander was known to be overconfident and pushy with his ideas, and he clearly didn’t live for the approval of people. He passionately lived out his purpose.
It’s easy to learn about world changers like Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander Hamilton, and Eliza, and then compare their stories to our own. Do their big stories make our smaller stories insignificant? Absolutely not.
We have no idea the story that God is writing through our everyday lives and who will tell our story in the future. I believe that when Alexander, Martin Luther King and Eliza were living their lives, they had no idea of the timeless legacy they were creating. They were just doing what they believed was right, one step at a time.
Live Life Unapologetically
Our small stories matter because they unknowingly lead to the larger ones. The pastor of our church spoke to this. He is a proclaimed perfectionist and likes his lawn cut with lines in perfect parallels. He has learned that as he mows, he must focus on what’s in front of him. If he looks to the left and right, he will swerve slightly off course. So rather than looking side to side, he keeps his eyes fixed on a point far in the distance to keep straight lines.
In the same way, when we live with our eyes fixed on our overall purpose, and don’t look left and right for people’s approval, we have a better chance of staying on course.
I am grateful for many friends whose lives exemplify purposeful living. My friend Jen is one that immediately comes to mind. We met at church and immediately clicked, but we lived in different areas of our city, so we didn’t live everyday life together.
I’ll never forget the night that she and her husband came over for dinner. We were chatting about how we wished we lived in the same community so that we could see each other more often. I remember when she said, “I think our friendship was meant to be lived out with our backs leaning against each other and us facing outward. We both have people to love, and work to do, but God put us in different neighborhoods on purpose. Back to back, we can fight the battles and love the people, and one day we will celebrate our victories side by side as sisters in heaven.”
For 40 years, Jen passionately lived. She knew her cancer was terminal and was determined to “Do Cancer Well.” She truly had her eyes fixed on eternity and it showed in the way that she lived. Despite her suffering, she lived her days intentionally.
Who Will Tell Your Story?
Jen’s example makes me want to live unapologetically. I want to be known by the way I love God and love others, and this starts in the small moments. I am a wife, so I will do my best to faithfully love my husband.As a mom, I will try to be present and available for my kids. In teaching, I will seek to make learning engaging.
It starts small. I realize I can’t control what people will remember about me. But I can keep my eyes fixed on that point off in the distance, remind myself of who I want to be and strive to live that out in my moments.
We have a limited amount of days to live on this earth. Remember your small story matters.
Leaving a legacy often begins with tapping into our purpose. Still questioning yours? Here’s where to start: Do You Know Your Purpose? It May Surprise You! – 193