I have had the unusual experience of attending two Memorial Services this week – one for a member of our school community and another for my neighbor. Both passed away unexpectedly and both well before their time. At the service I attended today, the priest gave a powerful and moving sermon about the spirit someone leaves behind as they move on. Although my words will never do his justice, he proposed to us that when someone passes, their spirit lives on as the collection of stories people tell about them. How people remember us, the stories they tell, are in the end our legacy. In fact, these stories are often the most powerful and moving part of any memorial service we attend.
I have also recently read three blog posts that struck a chord with me, and it is because they carry a similar message. The first was Leave a Legacy by Justin Tarte (@justintarte), the second was Leaders… What is Your Family Footprint by David Culberhouse (@dculberhouse), and the third was My Son the Volcano by Jennifer Marten (@jenmarten) All three of these posts ask us to think about the legacy, the footprint, the words, or as the priest today said… “the collection of stories” we ultimately will leave behind.
As a San Diegan, I was deeply moved this week when I read an article that came out in the San Diego Union Tribune about an SDPD officer who was murdered a year ago. Three minutes before the officer’s death, his last conversation, which happened to be with a child, was captured on video. It was shared with us in a story Officer’s Last Conversation Reverberates posted on August 7th. He was in line behind a 13 year old boy in line at McDonald’s – he engaged him in conversation, and when the boy did not have enough money to pay for his items, Officer Henwood paid for the rest. The story inspired one of our Council members to say this: “All of us can show kindness to a stranger… All of us can leave the world a little better than we found it.” It is a testament to the type of man he was, and his spirit lives on through this story we are all telling.
The day after this article came out, I was engaged in a conversation with one of my colleagues who shared with me another story of a series of interactions an adult (a teacher) had had with a very special child in my colleague’s life. In telling this very personal story, she actually used the words “the teacher killed his spirit” – that is the story being told about this teacher.
As educators, our voices are loud, our words and our actions critical. What we say and do has amazing power. We make hundreds of decisions every day that have an incredible impact on the children we serve. I encourage all of us to remember the story being told about Officer Henwood and to think about the collection of stories we want people to tell about us.