This has been an interesting week at work. Senior pranks took place the same day an old friend came to school to share with my students about a recent trip he took to Israel. There has been a lot of reflecting and remembering taking place in my heart and mind.
The end of the school year tends to do that every year. Seniors are reflecting on their four years and feeling regret and handing out words of advice over missed opportunities and wishes to be able to go back and do more with friends and family.
Today in class we were discussing the recent mischief and one student made the comment he had been thinking about a senior prank since his freshman year and that that he wanted to remembered for something good. Another remarked, “It’s high school. What we do now isn’t going to be remembered by anyone anyway, so what does it really matter what we do?”
Teachable moment. Transparent moment. What do you do if you’re Miss Mason? You tell your kids a story of one the apparently unforgettable moments of high school for yourself.
Senior trip. 1998. After a relatively unremarkable 5 years at the school from which I was a mere three months from leaving, myself and two friends who shall remain nameless decided to buy a cheap pack of Swisher Sweets and sit in the resort hot tub and smoke cigars. We were the coolest 18 year olds alive.
Problem was, we’d signed an agreement stating we would not partake of any alcohol, tobacco or drugs while on a school trip. And we got caught. By the Heads of the History and English Departments. And the High School Principal. It was AH-mazing.
Needless to say, phone calls home were made, many apologies were given, several Saturday schools were served, much repentance and remorse was expressed. The event became a running joke for a couple of years and then we all moved on with life.
Fast forward TWELVE years. I’m at the funeral of the father of a friend with whom I had grown up and who had graduated from the same school. While standing in the cemetery, a woman who had worked at the school while I went there approached my parents and me. After the standard pleasantries, she asked, with a twinkle in her eye, “So, smoked any cigars lately?”
REALLY? Five years at the school. Multi-sport athlete. President of the Forensics Team. Beta Club Member. I was a member of the Character Committee, for goodness’ sake. “Good kid.” Left there. Received two undergraduate degrees and an M.Div. I’m a teacher, speaker, published author, women’s ministry leader. Sister to three increasingly cool younger siblings. Sister-in-law to two amazing women. Aunt to the smartest and cutest kid in the world. But I am, at least in the mind of that lady, the kid who got caught smoking cigars at Disney World.
Granted, there are worse things one could be remembered for. Much worse. But looking back, that is NOT the legacy I desired for myself at that school, or anywhere else for that matter.
What we do makes a mark on those who are watching us, whether we realize it or not. And we have no control over which choices of ours others choose to carry with them in their minds as our legacy.
So when you are making decisions, no matter how big or how small, ask yourself, “Do I want this to be a part of my legacy? If this is the ONE thing someone remembers me for, am I ok with that?” Because once a legacy is established, once a reputation is developed, changing it can be next to impossible.
Whose legacy are you more concerned with? Your own, or the legacy and reputation of Christ in you? Everyone leaves a legacy trail. Where will yours take the people who watch and follow you?
If you have a legacy or reputation that you may not be proud of, it’s ten times harder to erase that bad reputation. But are you willing to do the work needed to change it, or are you content to just let people believe what they will and conform to their opinion of you?
I pray you are strong enough to prove them all wrong. I may be the kid that smoked the Swisher Sweets at Disney World, but I refuse to allow that to be the legacy I leave on this planet. Hopefully the teachable moment of transparency inspired some of my kids to consider their legacies, too.
What’s your legacy? Would you change it if you could? What if I told you that you could? Would you be willing to put in the work needed to do so?
What do you choose to remember about those around you? Do you choose the legacy of others to be their mistakes or their moments of goodness? How do you want those around you to remember you? Remember to give others the grace legacy you wish them to extend to you.