A friend of mine loves the beach. Living in Florida, she spends almost every weekend at one beach or another. She has always collected shells, and has recently decided to start making necklaces and other jewelry out of her enormous collection. I was at her house, and the dining room has been converted into a jewelry workshop. On the large, wooden table were hundreds, maybe thousands of shells. Each one different from the next. Some are very colorful, some large, some very ornate shapes. Each one will be selected and turned into something even more beautiful.
This got me thinking. We are remembered by the beauty we leave behind. And that beauty, totally unique to us, is a result of our entire life’s work, all of our words, all of our actions, all of our love. No two will ever be alike. Once we’re gone, this beauty can be appreciated, further developed, and in that way, we carry on. Another friend of mine passed away January of this year. She was an amazing woman, though you’ve more than likely never heard her name. She had been in an accident when she was 29 years old which left her mostly paralyzed. Her parents could not effectively care for her, so she spent the next 20 years or so living in hospital, with a brief time in her own apartment with the help of home care. She was not angry. She was not depressed about the turn her life had taken. Contrary to that, she was one of the most positive people I knew. Her town was not huge, and soon after her accident, she realized just how inaccessible it was to anyone in a wheelchair. She spent years lobbying and getting results to make so many buildings accessible to anyone with physical disabilities or limitations. When she passed, I thought of her town. All those people who easily can go in and out of public buildings, up and down sidewalks, never giving a thought to the fact that it once was not that way.
Never knowing the woman who made their daily lives easier with all of her life’s work and efforts. But regardless of if they know her name or what she did, they benefit from her life and what she did with it. As do we all. How many things do we just have in our lives that were handed down to us by the efforts and work of so many others? Our buildings, our scientific developments, our washing machines, air conditioners, foods, and even our freedom. If we were really conscious of it, we couldn’t touch a thing in daily life without feeling gratitude to the people who spent their lives creating it. We just have it all so effortlessly, and for us, it’s always been that way. In your life, be conscious of this fact. And maybe you’re not going to be a lobbyist, or a scientist, or develop some new product that makes life easier for everyone. But maybe you have a child. And the love, care, time, lessons, and encouragement you show to that child will carry on. Not only to your grandchildren and great grand children, but to every single person they all meet. They may not know that it was you who made sure they learned compassion and how to live with care and consideration for others. They will just remember what their parents taught them, and will carry it on. You will be remembered by the beauty you leave behind.