Leaving a Legacy: Seeing a Bigger Picture

Quincy Brown


On yesterday, I attended my first meeting of the Committee of 100, a group of Candler School of Theology alumni who are selected by the Dean to be ambassadors for the school to strengthen the ties between the seminary to the Church. 
During the introduction of new members, I learned about three alumni who received Candler's lifetime achievement award. It was an honor to among such individuals. And it got me to begin thinking about what type of legacy I'm working on to leave.
We all want to be remembered, to feel that we've contributed something to the world. For some, this can be a driving force leading to great accomplishments and extraordinary contributions to humanity. But for most of us with more modest goals, what pushes us is the desire to leave a legacy.
Your legacy is putting your stamp on the future. It's a way to make some meaning of your existence by saying: "Yes, the world of the future, I was here!" Legacy is about life and living. It's about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future.
While I don't think that I'm nowhere near the contribution of the three-lifetime achievement award winners, I do believe that in some small way, I'm making a difference of encouraging the next generation.
Whether its the next generation of younger ministers trying to discern whether or not God's calling them to serve in the UMC, or if it's giving pointers to an aspiring teenaged basketball player on his jump shot, I seemed to drawn to helping the next generation.
In fact, before becoming a District Superintendent, I served as a mentor in a local elementary school. It was my way of making an impact in my community.  I met with Jerry (not his real name), a 3rd grader, who was well mannered and interested in drawing.  I hit the jackpot when the counselor selected Jerry for me.  Little did he know that I loved to draw too.  Each Wednesday, Jerry would come to the counselor’s office with a book, drawing paper and a couple of pencils – one for him and me. 
Jerry was surprised to learn that I never draw with a pencil, but with a pen!  He asked why I didn't use a pencil and I explained that I started drawing at the age of 3 with the pens and markers that my parents had around the house.  Confused, Jerry then asked if I was afraid of making mistakes that I couldn’t erase.  I laughed and told him that I make mistakes in my drawings all the time, but over the years I've learned to incorporate the errors into the picture.
When he compared his drawing with mine (he always suggested that we draw the same things), he complained that my pictures were better than his.  I told Jerry that everybody could draw.  We all draw what we see, the way that we see things, mistakes and all.  Seeing the beauty and expressing it in means for others to see and experience is what it means to be an artist: to create something beautiful from what you have, even if it contains errors.
Later, Jerry became interested in checkers, but he had never played before.  So for the next few months, between drawing, and working on his math problems, we would play checkers.  When Jerry first started playing checkers, he couldn't see the entire board and would make careless errors.  I saw this as an opportunity to teach him about “seeing the big picture,” which I figured would not only help in checkers, but help in drawing pictures, math, and life.  It took a while, and Jerry would get frustrated, but through a lot of practice, Jerry finally began to catch on to see the big picture in checkers.
Jerry was learning about strategic thinking as a 3rd grader!  And last Wednesday, Jerry finally beat me.  No, not once or twice, but he beat me four games straight!  Jerry was very proud of himself for finally being able to beat me.  He even began to talk about how he had practiced a strategy to trap me during the game, and it worked.
In some small way, I want to believe that helping Jerry master the game of checkers will be part of an ongoing contribution to whatever legacy I leave behind.  In the grand scheme of theme, I hope that my life mattered because I was committed to helping others see bigger pictures in life.
Spend a few minutes thinking about the legacy you would like to leave. What type of legacy will the current choices and priorities of your life lead? Will you leave a legacy of excellence? A legacy of encouragement? A legacy of purpose? A legacy of love? Or a combination of each?What will the legacy that you leave be that will live beyond you? What about your church? What will its legacy be? What impact will your church make on the Jerry’s of your surrounding community?

On the Journey,


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