How Will You Be Remembered?

This is an older article I wrote in 2010… but I think it still rings true today.

I heard a line in a movie once that I thought was very profound, “What you do in life, echoes in eternity.” The movie was a fictional account of what an individual did while facing insurmountable odds. Some of you may know what movie I’m talking about, but the movie is not the premise of this discussion.

How will you be remembered? Did you make every attempt to go to work every day and support your family? Did you go the extra step and extend your hand to others you knew needed assistance? Do you do for others as often as you can or do you wait for others to do for you? Do you cling to integrity or do you bend left or right of center based on the opinion of others?

Everything we say, do, think and see has molded us into who we are today. Our experiences, both good and bad, have added fabric to the material that makes us who we are. Who we are will dictate our actions and our actions expose our worth. Doing the right thing is usually harder than doing the popular thing, but both carry direct and/or indirect consequences to ourselves and to those around us. Your actions will inscribe a memory in the minds of your family, friends, associates and strangers.

Will the memory of you bring a smile or will it bring a dismal response? Will you be remembered at all? There are several names from history that will never be forgotten, some good and some bad. Names like Hitler, Gandhi, Mandela, Gangis Khan, Sgt York, the Wright Brothers, Lincoln, Stalin… all are names that resound in history. Had Sgt York not acted selflessly that one time it is possible you would not know his name and it is very possible that day during WWI would have ended very differently. Had Nelson Mandela let depression and hate take over his persona what would have been the outcome? Most of us will not go down in the history books. We will live our lives and then fade closer and closer to total obscurity with each passing generation. The best we can hope for is to affect those around us in the present and hope, once we are gone, we will be remembered by friends and family as a person of worth. If we are lucky our worth will be passed on to someone who will carry on, someone we have affected in a positive way.

By our actions we display a right way or a wrong way to our children and those with whom we have influence. I suspect, if the truth be told, we will pass on both right and wrong; both ends of the spectrum. Hopefully the positive side of the spectrum will carry more weight… hopefully. It is a good bet that three generations from now no one will know your name or know what or who you were, but you can have a positive effect on that generation if you have a positive effect on this generation because they will pass that on to subsequent generations.

Whether you want to or not you will affect those around you. By your actions, either good or bad, you will bestow upon someone a piece of fabric that will intertwine itself into who and what they will become and they, in turn, will pass it on to those around them. That is a great responsibility, one you may not acknowledge, but it is there nonetheless. What you do today will echo into the next generation and perhaps beyond. Please take that into account when you are faced with an option that requires a hard decision; others are watching and others will be affected. Think of who you are, who you want to be, and how you want to be remembered.

Addendum added 6 February 2022. The two pictures portrayed in this article were not chosen at random nor were they chosen to demonstrate a specific segment of history. They just happened to be two pictures from the same era from opposite ends of the spectrum. These two men, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the unnamed guard were both at the work camp at Flossenburg Germany at the same time; one a guard and one a prisoner. Both roughly the same age, both raised in the same country, but they are remembered differently. This is the choice we make with every action and every word we speak. How will you be remembered?

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