At Grandparents Day at a local bay area Christian school this week, my wife and I were asked to speak about “Leaving a Legacy.” We did not talk about money, but rather 3 ways to leave a truly lasting legacy for future generations. ◊
When we think about leaving a legacy, many people think in terms of an inheritance or a gift of money. There’s an often-used Bible verse in Proverbs (13:22) that states that “a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Of course, this may very well be a monetary inheritance, but it may also be the passing along of intangible gifts of great value such as wisdom, training, even love.
3 Way to Leave a Real Legacy
The leaving of a legacy only really occurred to me about 10 years ago after we had our first grandchild. Before that, like most people, I was too busy working and living to worry much about passing a legacy. Then after a couple more weddings and more grandchildren (we’re now up to 10 between the ages of 2 and 10 years old), the idea of raising and impacting another generation stirred me to proactively consider the ways to pass on love, security, wisdom, and…
… [The] things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. (Psalms 78:3-4)
My wife and I were asked to speak this week at a special Grandparent’s Day event at a local Christian school about “Leaving a Legacy.” We did not talk at all about money, but in very practical terms spoke about 3 ways we are actively leaving a legacy for our grandchildren.
Here’s what we highlighted:
- Prayer – Nothing generic here but rather some very specific prayers on two fronts:
- Praying for each Grandchild’s Future Spouse – I shared the story of my Christian grandmother who in her broken English pinched my cheek while telling me that she “prayed for me every day” and that she “prayed for me and my wife!” As an unchurched 8-year-old I had no idea what she was talking about. But I never forgot it. Several years later, after becoming a Christ-follower myself, I shared this with my young fiancé (now my wife of 40 years). She was touched by the idea that someone had been praying for her over the years. She suggested that we pray for our future children’s future spouses. We did that for each of our 3 children since the time they were born and have continued that prayer for each of our 10 grandchildren since their birth.
- Praying for each Grandchild’s Daily Life – We pray for each grandchild regularly. Not just for their health and safety, but for a bit more. Beyond praying for their future spouse, we’ll also pray for God’s blessing on them that very day, wherever they are, at school or home, near or far. Also, that they will sense God’s peace, presence, and guidance in some way, even as a young child. And finally, that God will develop them as little people in their God-designed strengths and gifts so they may be useful for God’s purposes now and in the future for the rest of their lives.
- Time – Whether time is of Quantity or Quality is not necessarily the issue. Kids just want time and attention. A legacy imprint is left when grandchildren know their grandparents in special ways. This is achieved only through consistent time spent with devoted attention to the child. Therefore, time with grandchildren is best when we make it Special.
- Grandmothers – My wife started the practice she coined as “Special Time” when our young children were in elementary school. She found a way to spend a Special Time hour per week with an older child after school while the other kids were napping or occupied. It turned into a focused time with each child (game-playing, book reading, Bible storytelling, treat-time, etc.). She continued this practice as the kids got older and kept it age appropriate. She resurrected the practice for our grandchildren. As 7 of them are local to us, she now schedules 2 to 3-hour Special Time sessions for each grandchild every few weeks. This too is age-appropriate and has turned into a very special time indeed that each grandchild excitedly anticipates.
- Grandfathers – While I recommend now that busy fathers work to spend at least 15-minutes per day with each child (tough but very doable and high-impact), grandfathers can focus on each grandchild in similar ways. I, as Grandpa, will often leverage the Grandma Special Time and add some outdoor baseball or tree-swinging time. With a special relationship with each of them, I primarily have my Special Time with grandchildren when we get a chance to put them to bed and tell them stories. This is the final key area we focused on in leaving a legacy for our grandchildren.
- Storytelling – Every child loves stories. Parents and Grandparents have a great opportunity to proactively leave a legacy with the stories they tell or read. There are 3 types of stories that we tell. I know that the investment of a little time and effort will yield long-term dividends.
- Family Stories – my father shared some stories about his life with me in the final year of his life. I never knew these stories. I decided to share age-appropriate family stories with our children and now grandchildren. When I get the privilege to put them to bed, I tell them a “Once upon a time…” story about a little boy or a little girl and their adventure. The story will be based on a true story about their grandparents, parents, or even uncles and aunts. I keep the character’s identity a mystery until the end when I ask them to guess the name of the little boy or girl. It’s fun and often a big surprise when they realize that their parents and even grandparents were once little people just like them.
- Character Building Stories – When given the opportunity, I will often use the bedtime routine to tell stories that build character and teach a lesson. I may tell an Aesop Fable or make one up or tell a story of a famous person and what they went through as a young person that helped them develop strength, love, character and courage.
- God/Bible Stories – the Bible is full of stories that show God’s love, power, character, patience, teachings, etc. There are many good children’s Bible story books that do this storytelling very well. I will often take a parable taught by Jesus and tell it in a way that little children can understand. I wrap the story up with the punchline that this is a story told by Jesus with a very clear message for us.
No Magic, No Guilt
Most grandparents easily do these things at some level. There’s no magic here, just power and impact through attention to Godly detail. And no need for guilt. It’s never too late to get started with any of these actions. Children are very forgiving and respond well to any level of attention. Take small steps with any of these practices and watch the short- and long-term impact you will have on each of your grandchildren. At the same time you will be building a strong and lasting legacy that will be passed on unto generations.
Are you leaving a legacy of lasting value?
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. – Deuteronomy 6:5-7