Monday, April 6, 2015

Legacy - A Power We All Have

The story was secondhand, told to me by my husband. Overseeing the nightly bath vs. shower ritual of our children, ages 6 and 4, he was the parent on-duty.  It had been a long day of Spring Break play, inevitable growth spurts, and the competitive behavior of siblings.  Quickly the kids launched into an argument over who was going to use their shower/bath first:

Daughter: I said it first, I get a bath....NOW!!!!

Son: Not fair!  You take fooooooorrrrrrrevvvvvvver in the bath.  I want a quick shower!

Daughter: [with a smirk spreading across her face], I know, let's do a coin toss! 

For the reader, she has an uncanny ability to win these games of chance, something that has not gone unnoticed by our son.

Son; Okay [said with a bit of distrust].

Up went the coin, supplied by dad.  It landed heads up, just as our daughter had predicted.

Son: Fine, take your God Damn bath!

He stomped off to our master bath for a shower on his own. At this point in the story, my husband is laughing.  After quoting our son's proper use of GD, he said, "and he sounded just like you -- tone, inflection -- it was you! Then with a slight frown of sadness he added, " He sounded just like your mom too."  My mom died just over a year ago, but part of her still lives on in what she passed on to me, and now to me to my children. That is the power of legacy.

From phrases we use, to foods we prepare, to acts of charity -- our children, young and old, model the behavior of their elders.  This is why you can make a difference in the world of nonprofits without having millions.  It is a point I make in my book, Middle Class Philanthropist: How anyone can leave a legacy.  The point is reiterated in this piece by Adrian Hirsch for In Register Magazine about making a difference without millions.

As Spring finally warms the frozen earth of our home town of Madison, Wisconsin we have daffodils blooming in our front yard.  On our kitchen counter is the 2015 version of the Easter Bunny Cake we will take to a gathering later today. Some version of this cake has been present for me every Easter since 1974, when I was not quite one year old.  When my mom's health declined the baking baton was passed on to me.  One day the baton will pass on to one or both of my children.  What else can I pass on to them?  With this post I have decided to give 1% of my life insurance policy to my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. Being the first in my immediate family to attain a college degree (and then a masters followed by a law degree), the immense value of our public universities is brilliantly apparently to me.  Making this designation will model admiration for quality public universities to my children.

That is the power of a legacy.  How will you use your power?