There is a lot of talk about legacy these days. Legacy by definition means “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”.
For me, there is one person in particular whose legacy has always intrigued me and definitely left a mark on my life.
It is during the summer months when my most vivid memories exist of the man whose life had the biggest influence on mine.
His name was Joseph Leo and he was my maternal Grandpa.
Serving as a photographer in the Navy during WWII, all I knew was that he made me giggle, protected me from scary bugs and always, ALWAYS made me know I was safe and valuable.
A girl is truly blessed when she has a male role model whose influence on her is one of being loved, valued unconditionally and assured of her importance in his life.
I wish I had known that the legacy he left went so much farther than just my little life. I might have asked him more about how he maintained his remarkably positive spirit during the days, weeks and months he spent away from his family on what must have been an incredibly lonely and sometimes scary ship.
What I discovered in a box full of war photos and awards, none of which were displayed anywhere by this humble man, was a typed letter communicating to his parents the influence my Grandpa had on the U.S.S. San Juan. Part of it read:
While Joe wasn’t here long, still in that short time he managed to have himself so well liked by all of us that everyone hates to see him leave. He was always cheerful and kind – ready to do anyone a favor if it were within his power; and a spirit like that goes a long, long way, especially aboard a ship, toward maintaining happiness.
Perhaps even more valuable was an explanation by the author of this letter about where my Grandpa’s influence came from:
But the best of Joe was that it was not affected happiness and cheer that he possessed. He meant it – so he couldn’t help but live it and spread it among others. Probably the reason for it can be traced to his deep religious convictions. I think that he has been one of the most sincerely religious men on the ship. He was at Mass and received communion every time he had the chance. A man cannot do that without imbibing to a marked degree something of the goodness that was Christ. Would that we had many, many more men like him.
The letter was signed by Marion F. Forst, the Chaplain on the U.S.S. San Juan during his time on that ship.
Can you imagine being so tapped in to the goodness of Christ that you could not help but be kind and cheerful, giving to others in whatever ways you were able?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. ~ Galatians 5:22-25
You see, it was never about himself. My Grandpa’s life was so influenced by the fruits of the Spirit through his belief in Christ, that he could not help but be kind, cheerful and generous with his time and talents.
It was in him. His consistency of character PROVED that what was in his heart was good and true and right and that is precisely because he lived a life tapped into the goodness of Christ.
I cannot say he was 100% tapped in 100% of the time. He would not have been human if he was!
What I can do is learn from the legacy he left. Imagine a world where kindness overwhelms darkness. A school where bringing joy to others is more popular than bullying. Where doing what is right is more “cool” than pushing the boundaries of the rules.
I so desire for us (i.e., the parents) to lead lives worth following so that our KIDS learn to live lives full of joy, peace, kindness and goodness!
A mama who I continue to learn from even after her homecoming is Kara Tippetts. She lived a life of such goodness, kindness and cheerfulness. Would you discover with me what it looks like to parent with kindness?
Check out her blog, Mundane Faithfulness, which continues to be maintained by her good friend Blythe Hunt. I also encourage you to read Big Love and The Hardest Peace (note that these are NOT affiliate links), both of which offer glimpses of what Kara’s legacy is all about.
What can we do to support each other in leading lives ruled by goodness, kindness and cheerfulness?
What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your kids and grandkids?