Life preservers protect children(and grandmothers)from unexpected boat accidents. We take care to keep our children safe. Yet so many people from my very large post-War generation are reckless about what we are leaving these same children. I recently saw a large recreational vehicle proudly displaying a bumper sticker which said:”We Are Spending Our Children’s Inheritance.” What message underlies that sticker? And how true it seems sometimes in the larger picture.

My generation has a responsibility to the ones that come after us. Our parents and grandparents had no doubt about values and traditions they wanted to impart. They accepted the title of “elder” willingly instead of trying to pretend that they were “only as old as you feel,” implying that old age is an emotion rather than a reality. Somehow many of my peers are failing to take up the mantle left us by the so-called “Greatest Generation.” Perhaps giving it that moniker left the impression that we could never live up, so why try.

Instead of buying more toys (bumper sticker “He Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins”) we need to focus on what we owe those who come after us. I am not sure what that will look like, but I am eager to find out. Right now I take encouragement from a friend, a retired optician, who discovered his skills were desperately needed in Haiti. He joined a team which went there and he spent the day fitting donated glasses. He told me of the joy of a grandmother who only wanted to be able to see to thread a needle. Simple for him with his years of experience, life changing for her.

I am looking forward to seeing how our collective wisdom and experience can benefit the world around us. Too little depends on the political leadership. The rest depends on us.

12 thoughts on ““Legacy?”

  1. This is a very important issue. I fear that it is easy to squander what we have with little foresight for our future needs (or those who follow’s needs). Unfortunately the lessons we all need to learn include responsibility and prudence, but often these are difficult to impart. It is much easier to buy something new and aim for a short term pleasure than to consider foregoing or deferring something. It is always nice to say things that people want to hear and we enjoy the pleasure welcomed words give. However, the the best thing we can do for our children, and theirs, is to share wisdom (even if it means making difficult choices) so that they can learn from our mistakes and aren’t doomed to repeat them


  2. I really enjoyed this. I as raised by my grandparents. They were like a safety net for my dad, my aunt and me. They were always there and they were always willing to give if needed. They pushed us and demanded the best out of us but they always left something behind.

    If anything I’m doing the same. It’s what I know.

    Excellent read. Thank you. Love the picture, by the way. 🙂


  3. Honest observations Elizabeth. The boomers I work with discuss trust funds, holiday homes and overseas trips in breaks. At 47, I am unlikely to be having those conversations in 10 years time. I have to spend every penny I earn on raising my children now. Such different times.


  4. Thank you for these important words. I am in my 50s and have recently been thinking about “legacy” and “eldering” in ways beyond looking and feeling youthful. Both of my parents died this past decade, and I find myself attracted to elders in my community whose vitality comes from knowing who they are and honoring the value of what they have to share at this time in their lives. Although somewhat dated, the book From Age-ing to Sage-ing (Schachter-Shalomi and Miller) has also begun to help give me language for my yearning to embrace aging in a rich way.


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