I read Can You Say…Hero? by Tom Junod last week, the source article for the film, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but after reading about the author’s experience with Fred Rogers, it’s definitely on my list. As I read through the article, I was struck by what I perceived as the insinuation that the show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was Fred Rogers’ destiny. Destiny is an event or a course of events that will inevitably happen in the future, but it doesn’t define what Mr. Rogers did with his life, what he was destined to do. As I read that article, as I read about the man who preached kindness with every part of his being, it struck me that destiny is not what we as individuals should be striving for–it’s legacy.
I started my writing career almost twenty years ago after years of trying to figure out what my purpose, my destiny was. And it was great to be able to say, I am a writer, but it didn’t feel complete. ‘I am an artist,’ i added, but what does that even mean when I write too? A publisher now? I never planned for that. And if I am supposed to accomplish something specific, how can I be so many things? What am I supposed to do?
Those are the questions that plagued me for years. And while I believe it’s good to ask questions, the effort is almost pointless if you’re not getting any answers. I wasn’t getting answers, but that’s because I was asking the wrong question. It wasn’t, ‘What is my destiny?’ but ‘What is my legacy?’ You see, destiny locks you into a specific thing. Legacy broadens that view. Think about Fred Rogers. His legacy was/is kindness, love. He was blessed, I think, to be able to work in the field he did for so long. But even if he hadn’t, if he was a mailman instead of a children’s television show, or a truck driver, or anything else, his life would still been about kindness. That show just gave him a wider circle of influence. It gave him a global legacy, something that seven years after his death, decades after his show, he is still known for.
So my question changed but I was still stuck in the same rut, because now I had to figure out what kind of legacy I wanted to leave. Was it love? Was it equality? Tolerance? What was I going to leave behind? The good news is I didn’t have to spend years getting this answer, because it hit me this morning as I sat in Sunday church service: as a Christian, my legacy is God. It is a return to him who created me, the circle of life, if you will. We start our journey/our destiny, with him and when we leave this realm/this earth to him, we leave behind something that will remind others of him. Fred Rogers’ legacy wasn’t kindness, it was God. He left a little bit of God, in the form of kindness, in the earth when he died. And that’s what I’m destined for–to leave a little bit of God in the earth behind when I die. Love, kindness, taking care of each other, helping one another, being a good neighbor–these attributes define who he is and who he wants us to be and what he wants us to do–share our lives and create a sense of community with others.
Not everyone is a Christian, but community is a human experience. It’s not reserved for one race or ethnicity. We all want to love and to be loved. We all want to be a part of a community, and that is the legacy we should all strive for. Some may have bigger platforms with a farther reach than the average person, but at the end of the day, at the end of our lives, the question shouldn’t be about the one thing we did right, but about the little bit of God, the little bit of goodness, the little bit of legacy we left behind.
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