My family have developed something of an obsession with the musical Hamilton. For those lucky ones who aren’t aware of it, it’s about Alexander Hamilton who was one of the founding fathers. He was, if the musical is to be believed, a brilliant, egotistical and obsessive man who was key in creating much of the governmental structure of the USA. Much of the story revolves around the question “who tells your story”. It’s about legacy and being remembered.
The late Terry Pratchett, a wonderfully funny and erudite man, wrote ‘No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…’
This is all very sombre and as I sit here in the blazing 28C heat It feels possibly a little too serious, more suited to a winter’s night but I shall press on. I think there are two ways to judge a life, by the wealth accumulated or by the difference made. Most people who hold to a belief system, spiritual or humanist, would say that the second is the answer, the difference you make in the lives of others.
One of the four tenets of the Methodist Church is about service which grows out of Jesus’ command to love your neighbour as you love yourself. Quite often we have a tendency to believe we have to win the Nobel Peace Prize to be of real service to people. Not true. My father was a painter and decorator who lived in the same village for 45 years. He died nine years ago but even now, if I walk through the village I get stopped by people who tell me how they miss him and about the things he did for them or their family. I’ve tried to make sure I do two things in life, properly listen when people are talking to me, not just the words but how they say them, and when people do something praiseworthy then I highlight it. Try taking a day sometime and only praising people instead of complaining about them. It really will lift your day too.
So, it’s not about who tells your story. It’s about whose story you change. If you can be a sounding board for a woman who’s husband is dying and feels she can’t burden him with her worries, you’ve made a difference. If you stop to talk to an upset teenager on a railway bridge and that bit of human interaction makes them rethink suicide, you’ve made a difference. If you have a friend with depression and you go to them and sit with them, without trying to fix them, you’ve made a difference. There are things like Relay for Life and Race for Life, sponsored events where you can do something for others without it having to be about you. If you want a legacy, if you want to affect the world, don’t make it about you and who tells your story. Make it about lives that are better for having touched yours.