by Theresa Wells
Last week I had the honour and somber privilege of writing a column about an individual who had touched my life, as well as the life of my daughter. It was an emotional column, because George Decker, someone who spent 25 years in the Fort McMurray Public School District as a teacher and administrator, touched thousands of lives over those years, and I was further honoured when subsequent to the publication of that column dozens of people contacted me directly to share their memories of George and how he touched their lives.
I was not even slightly surprised, as George Decker was a remarkable man and over his years in this community he made a profound impact on youth and adults alike. As I read the emails and messages about George I was reminded, though, of how just one person can in fact change lives.
I think at times we wonder if what we do in this world will have any impact. We wonder what legacy, if any, we will leave behind us and how we will be remembered. Perhaps it seems that some who have the opportunity to connect with more people will leave a larger legacy, the stone they drop into the pond of this world spreading ripples far and wide – and yet what I remembered this week was that no matter what you do and who you are you have the chance to touch lives.
This is a community rich in opportunities to make a difference. It doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer or a truck driver, a teacher or a politician, a senior citizen or a youth – there are so many chances here to do things that will be remembered long after you have gone. From the simplest of kind acts like buying the person behind you in line their coffee to starting a new initiative or organization, the chance to change this community – and change lives – looms large. All it takes is one step: the decision to do something.
Inertia has great power. One of Newton’s Laws of Motion says “a body at rest stays at rest”, and it is easy – far too easy – to stay at rest our entire lives, never doing anything other than the basics of life: work, eat, sleep, repeat, again and again and again until our days run out and we find we have finished our lives but somehow forgotten to live.
But inertia can be overcome. We can go to our jobs and instead of simply “doing them” we can embrace them, just as George Decker did, turning our job into a passion. We can volunteer, finding our niche in our community and place where we can use the skills we have or use our new ones to benefit others while also filling the need inside ourselves to make a difference in our world. We can connect with others through what we believe, whether it is politics or social activism or raising funds for social profit organizations – the possibilities are endless, and every chance is the opportunity to not only live every day of your life but to slowly build a legacy.
And at times it is as simple as just being there with a kind word, a smile, an offer of assistance. These small acts add up over time, and are no less profound and no less worthy of note than the most grandiose of gestures.
People remember the times you smiled, the times you laughed, the times you helped and the times you reached out to them. They remember the big moments and the small ones, and even, perhaps most especially, the moments you don’t even recall but that touched them in some way you may not even understand or ever know.
This week as I read through messages about a kind and thoughtful man who left us far too soon I was reminded of how we can touch the lives of others. It brought back to me that the legacy we leave is a choice we make, and how we are remembered – and if we are remembered – is up to us. Our legacy is ours to build, but not because we have decided we want to be remembered; it is because we want to make a difference in our lives, our communities and our world. The legacy you leave and how you will be remembered is up to you – and this week I was gently reminded of that fact as we said goodbye to someone who chose wisely and well and who left a legacy that will never be forgotten.
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