I love this quote. Who among us, if we would be completely honest, has not wondered whether or not our name will live on in any way after we are gone? After all, few of us can expect that our life’s work will make us into a household name like Harley-Davidson. That pantheon is reserved for a select few, such as Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, DuPont, Ford, Mercedes, etc…
Still, this quote speaks to what happens to any individual who, whether he or she has tasted worldly success or not, has nonetheless found that they are still not fulfilled, and are thus looking to find a way to leave something behind that makes an impact on others.
That is why another of my favorite television episodes comes from Little House on the Prairie, season 8, episode 14, which bears the similar title of “The Legacy”.
The folks over at the Little House on the Prairie Wiki website summarize the plot. Charles Ingalls, played by Michael Landon, and a friend, named Jack, deliver some tables, hand-made by Charles, from Walnut Grove to a store in Minneapolis, for which Charles makes a few "as a hobby".
After Jack dies suddenly on the return trip, Charles decides he wants to do something to be remembered for, and he agrees to move to the city to work full-time on producing the tables for a trial period before selling the farm and moving the entire family.
Things go well at first, until a big furniture manufacturer copies the table and underprices them, and sales dry up. Meanwhile, things have not gone well at the farm, as the whole family has had to pitch in to do the work Charles normally did. Charles soon decides that his greatest legacy will be his children, not his furniture.
The final scene jumps ahead to the modern world (1982 at the time), where one of Charles’ tables, complete with the identifying brand, “CI”, burned on the underneath, is bought as a prized antique at an auction. Not surprisingly, the young couple who purchases the hand-crafted table inquires as to who the original craftsman with the initials “CI” was, only to be told that no one seems to know. Whoever he was, he clearly did fine work; but his identity has long been forgotten to history.
The point of the episode is clear. Charles Ingalls left behind little to warrant recognition from the world at large as praiseworthy. Even the table itself is a fictional concoction for the purposes of entertainment. And yet, the real Charles Ingalls did exist. He was the father of a noted author named Laura Ingalls Wilder.
You likely know of her. She went on to pen a whole series of books, in part, because she was inspired to tell the story of her father and mother and their struggle to raise a family on the nineteenth century American frontier.
No doubt Mrs. Wilder herself had no idea that her books would one day become international bestsellers, and then be made into movies and even an award winning, decades-long running television show, touching untold millions of people.
All of this is to say that the greatest legacy any of us can leave is our impact on those whom God has entrusted us to influence. And so, my friend, if you feel led to design and manufacture a world class motorcycle, go for it! More power to you. If you can build a better mousetrap (or even a table), then by all means, do so. May the world beat a path to your door!
But remember, as you do, that the greatest legacy you will likely ever leave is still the impression you make on those with whom God has ordained that you cross paths. Spouses, family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, teammates, customers, etc… The point is that there are no accidental encounters; nor are there any accidental relationships. They are all, each and every one, by Divine appointment!
No doubt this is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote these words to the believers at Galatia (chapter 6, verse 10): “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” I take this to mean that we never know what the significance of even the smallest act of kindness, compassion, and/or love will be upon another person.
But God does! And He does not make mistakes. Therefore, if He has ordained that you cross paths with any other person, then He has done so for a reason. Only eternity will reveal all that He had in mind in having done so. Only at the day of Judgement will we know the who, the what, the when, the where, and the why of His Divine will!
All of which is to say that, when that day comes, most assuredly, we will also learn what a genuine legacy was all about!
And by the way, for what it’s worth... We will also undoubtedly learn that a household name in Heaven will last a whole lot longer than one will here on earth…