Monday, October 19, 2015

Where Is My Legacy?



At what point in our lives do we leave a legacy?  Can it be misplaced?  Does one have to search for a legacy; is it bestowed upon us, or, something we take…for granted?

Do we know what potential impact we will have on another human being and what that ripple effect could be?  There is a theory called the Butterfly Effect, where, when applied to the weather, it is said that if a butterfly were to flap its wings, at some future point in time, that will build to a hurricane half a world away.  MIT meteorologist Edward Lopez coined the term in the 1960’s.  In his book, The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters, Andy Andrews extrapolates this theory in human terms, in that one person can have a profound effect on the lives of another and so on down the chain.  He outlines this then follows a real life impact through many generations.  The point of the book is that everything we do can and does have an impact on those around us.  Sometimes the impact is profound; sometimes it is small.

If there is a Butterfly Effect, and it is applicable to humans, then we all have the potential to leave a legacy, whether that is through a big impact or minor impact.  We can, we should, and it is important to live each day with this in our minds.  Like the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where the main character George Bailey did not know how important his life was until an angel showed him.  Fiction, yes, but highlights the point. 

“But, Wayne, that is just a story.  Do we ever get to see this in our lives?”
There was a man that came over from Europe and engaged in leading religious services through singing – what we would call today a cantor (Chazzan).  Many years later, when his son came to this country, he followed that love for music and learned the violin and later some basic piano.  His son then learned piano quite well until he came face-to-face with the Warsaw Concerto, which caused him to stop.  His son learned the accordion, piano, saxophone and a few other instruments and played in a band with his brothers.  Of his two daughters, one loves going to concerts and one has learned a series of instruments and is studying music education.  The one that is studying music entered school as a vocal student.  With music education, after five generations, the love of music has been passed down to potentially influence many people, and, what started with a vocal talent came full circle back to vocal education.  The first person had no idea what his love of music would do.

This past weekend, I attended the Brandeis Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies to receive the award for Ace Weinstein.  My great uncle was instrumental in bringing the athletic program to Brandeis in its early days by recruiting athletes, paying for clothing and food, and supporting the growth / development of their programs.  It ended up that he was involved with football legend Benny Friedman and winning Coach Henry Stein. Until I had the opportunity to meet the recipients of his generosity, I would not believe that a family member would have the capacity to identify the potential in young adults that most of us would miss within ourselves.  His generosity and capacity to provide the opportunity for success in others was phenomenal.  Here are some of the words (paraphrased) from the benefactors of his help, and participants in the event said:

  • “Your uncle was the one that recruited me for Brandeis.”
  • “Your uncle bought me my first real winter coat.”
  • “…the scholarship provided by your uncle…”
  • “…let’s have a moment of silence for our fallen team mates and Ace Weinstein…”
  • “He was the fastest person ever to be processed through the nominating committee.”
  • “I learned how to play golf because he asked me to teach it at camp.”
  • “He catered the meals while the (basketball) was team on the road.”
  • “Your uncle drove me up to Brandeis for my interview in his Cadillac.”
  • “My first time on a plane was with your uncle.”

Legacies are created through our interactions with others, whether through our words or actions, that hopefully have a positive impact on others.  We can, we should, and it is important, that we all do great things with our lives to build our own legacies for the future.