By Helene Szabados
“Believe in butterflies. If they can fly a thousand miles, think what you can do. You are alive so celebrate every moment. Discover what the world needs that you believe in with all your heart, a service you are really good at and love most to do. Do that…” -Sami Sunchild
Peaceful World Foundation hosted a brunch conversation last Thursday on the topic of legacy and how one plans on creating their legacy for future generations. We invited a diversity of guests but, as with our previously hosted conversations, the actual makeup of attendees is always unpredictable. Thursday, aside from Heidi & myself, we ended up with a table of men. Ironically, last week we had a table full of ladies.
We started off as a small group with Oren, Chief Strategies Officer at Commonweal, being our earliest arriving guest. Having lived in the Haight-Ashbury area, Oren met Sami Sunchild on a few occasions. He discussed the exponential change occurring in San Francisco and spoke about the Haight-Ashbury community. His perspective on the sub-topic was, “…we have young adults, ranging from 20 to 30 years old, all coming from different places, integrating themselves into a new community.” In his work he sees young professionals uprooting themselves from the comforts of their hometowns, moving into new, unfamiliar surroundings, and the sense of disconnect from the wider new community that often emerges when relocating. At Commonweal Oren founded EDGE, a program focusing on building community through connection, cognition and creativity. EDGE recognizes that as humans we have a quest for purpose & a sense of belonging, then asks where our search for meaning comes from.
We posed our topic for the day “What legacy are you leaving behind for the world of tomorrow?” Oren’s definition of legacy was leaving something behind to get credit for. He said that in 200 years most of what we do today will be forgotten, then spoke about his experience cleaning out his mother’s house after her passing. “Attachments,” Oren said, “they slow us down.” I countered with “why are we in such a rush?” and he rephrased his response; “Attachments can distract you from achieving your goals.” I replied that, “…having attachments is a natural process of letting go.” We must acknowledge that we have attachments before we can begin letting go of them.
Mario, Peaceful World’s longtime friend from Brahma Kumaris, joined our table. After a brief introduction we posed the question of legacy to Mario. When diagnosed with liver cancer Mario began reflecting on the fragility of his life. He made the decision to shift his perspective on his experience. He chose to look at his illness as improving his health and wellbeing verses isolating the disease. He actively took charge of his immediate environment, hiding his pills and only taking them out when he needed to take his dose. He encouraged himself each day through words, writing positive affirmations on post-its and hanging them on his walls. He made sure his room was clean, as he was adamant about “…not living in the room of a sick person.” Taking attention off the disease, he is consistently creating a healthy living space, reinforcing this new perspective on his overall health. After his doctors advised him to rest he discovered he was more comfortable resting in a vertical position on a special wooden bench, which he calls the “Be-Me bench”, allowing his body to be more open. Mario’s perspective on the matter brought life to the topic of legacy.
We had a surprise drop in from No Bully when Eric and his guest Piam sat in on the conversation. We posed the legacy question to Piam. He explained his work toward creating a connection community, linking education-driven students to work closely with someone in an older age bracket. He shared his thoughts on building bridges between age gaps, and the importance of learning from people in different stages of life. We asked Piam what experiences brought him to this line of work. He described living with 12 people and not knowing or being able to connect to any of them. After moving he realized the true meaning of support and connection, and this motivated him to provide this connection to others.
The topic of legacy can be tricky, as it requires us to look at the life we lead today. Heidi added that leaving a legacy begins with living in the present moment.
Our conclusion: My actions and how I choose to live today will affect the world I leave for tomorrow. The treasure of this topic, however, is there is no right answer.
“Some questions are not meant to be answered, they are meant to be lived”
– Dr. Jacob Needleman