The problem with legacy

The desire for fame and fortune has many faces. Most often we connect this phrase to those seeking acknowledgement on the public stage: performers, athletes, politicians and entrepreneurs (sometimes more than one at the same time). And let me not forget ‘influencers’. I still struggle to understand this to be a vocational title but there it is.

But I think the temptation of rewards-based living is a lot closer to home than we imagine. I have been reflecting of late on ‘legacy’ living. The seeming innocent goal of living significant lives as determined by measurable impact. I’ve heard a lot of talk about leaving a legacy of late and for the most part, it is described as leaving behind ‘stuff’. Something tangible. Like a charity, a business, a scholarship, an inheritance. A monument, a movement or a change in the law.

And it was with this in my mind that I started a conversation with Thanan, a local businesswoman in Cambodia. Over 15 years, Thanan had built a home handicrafts subsistence business into a retail store employing twenty people. She had moved from a market stall into a waterfront premises in central Phnom Penh. It is a remarkable achievement. And during our friendship, I have watched her two children grow older and now prepare to finish university.

So, I asked her, “Do you think your daughter will take over the business?”

“No”, she replied, “I don’t think she is interested.”

I was a bit taken aback so added, “Do you think your son will want to keep the shop going?”

“No”, she added, “He wants to be an engineer.”

She showed no hint of concern but I wasn’t finished. 

“What about your legacy? Are you disappointed that it may not continue?”

Thanan looked at me a little confused. She shook her head and reassuringly explained;

“I am not disappointed. My legacy is not my business or my shop. My legacy is the woman I have become.”

And in one exchange, I saw my own frailty. The chip in my thinking that had allowed legacy to become about something other than being a woman of substance and contentment.

Fame and fortune comes in lots of different packages. Let us be vigilant and humble enough to see when its lure knocks at our door.

About Kelley

Kelley is a speaker, author, overseas aid worker and perpetual student. She is passionate about women and gender issues, both in the local and international context, which underpins her enthusiasm for kinwomen and its contribution to women ‘living their finest life’. In 2014 Kelley completed a Masters in International and Community Development before establishing The Foxglove Project. Foxglove is a registered charity focused on supporting international development projects that are sustainable and driven by indigenous leadership. Kelley’s paid work requires her to travel extensively to evaluate and support projects supported by Australian funds. This experience and networking enables Foxglove to partner with outstanding overseas agencies delivering real opportunities for the poor and vulnerable to lead independent self-determined lives. Kelley combines these passions with a love of family and faith. Across more than 30 years of marriage, Kelley and her husband have worked through many of the challenges of building a relationship while raising three sons. Their boys have now finished high school changing the dynamics of family life and relationships. One of her great joys is sharing parenting lessons and learning from good and bad (sometimes disastrous) experiences. She uses humour and common sense to talk about the everyday challenges facing parents in today’s context.