Thursday, October 06, 2016


The word legacy doesn’t have a difficult or complicated definition. Basically, it is "something that comes from someone in the past." It can be money, like what you give someone in a will, or it can be an attitude or a way of life.

Last week I found out that the Refresh conference where I have spoken for the last 5 years, has decided to change up their Friday night Respite night and not do comedy and thus, for the first time, I am not going to be going to the conference. I was grieving that loss, I gotta be honest, but I realized something as I was coming to terms with the fact that i am no longer an “up and comer” in the orphan care movement. (And no, I am not writing this because I need encouragement or sympathy — just wanting to make a point).

The leaders in the adoption/foster care/orphan care movement are now parents in their 30s and 40s. Their blogs are written to drive traffic, open opportunities to speak, and get book deals… as well as to support other parents. But they are classier, their use of social media is sophisticated, and there is a different tone. It’s a much different culture than it was 20 years ago. Back then we blogged to survive and connect with others and never thought about whether or not anyone outside of our small group of friends would read it. We didn’t always add pictures or proofread, or write in complete sentences or paragraphs. In fact, Bart called my blog “Barf on a Page.” If you look back to posts on my blog from 2006-2012 you will see so many descriptions of me wallowing in the difficult days of parenting traumatized teens who were making bad choices.

So I have realized that I’m not going to be one of those “brand new speakers” on the adoption circuit. It’s now time for me to shift gears and invest in people who are and who will be. And that is what it means to leave a legacy.

However, I have one more story that illustrates that you don’t have to be an “old person” to leave a legacy. Some of you know that I was the equivalent of a college Vice-President when I was 25. For four years I was Dean of Students at a Wesleyan college in Oklahoma and there I spoke in chapel four times a year. At the very beginning of each school year, I spoke on integrity. I talked about being whole and how your words, actions and thoughts needed to match up.

Fast forward 25 years…. there isn’t a month that goes by that one of the students who went to school there doesn’t post something about integrity on Facebook and tag me. When they hear the word, they think of me and our time together. Now THAT is a legacy.

We also have several of our own children who have caught the spirit of what Bart and I tried to teach them in regards to helping the less fortunate. It makes me feel pride like nothing else to hear about my daughter offering a ride home to a coworker who has a 1.5 hour walk to work. Or hearing that my other daughter bought groceries for a single mom she knows who was having a hard time. Or seeing that my son Jimmy is the one at work who always wants to make sure that his boss has a cake at Taco Bell on her birthday, even if he pays for it himself. Or when I watch my children being good parents and hear them say the same things we said to them. Or when my son Leon posts on Facebook a link about turtles crossing the road in Minnesota and he comments that he would not only stop for the turtle, but help it cross the road…. and I know he would do it. He’s just that kind of guy.

So whether you are old like me, investing in the “up and comers” or if you are young like I once was a long time ago and investing in your own children or the clients and residents we work with, you can still leave a legacy.

Today as I prepare to head to the “Legacy Luncheon” I am reminding myself to think about what kind of legacy I’m leaving and to be mindful of what my actions are teaching those behind me.

This song sums it up perfectly:

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