When I was in high school, the kid with the locker next to mine started a gum collection in the door of his locker. Every day we would both stick a piece of chewed up gum on the inside of the door. We were trying to fill the whole door in a year, but we got caught and he had to scrape the door clean. Along the same lines as those kids who carve their names in the desk tops or graffiti walls, I think we were trying to leave our mark on the school (without using knives or spray paint).
Leaving your mark on life is a vague goal that most of us want to achieve but really have no idea how to accomplish. How exactly do you go about leaving a legacy? Think of these historical people and think about if they were deliberate in leaving a legacy.
Anne Frank (her diary was published after her death in a Nazi concentration camp)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (the stories of her pioneer life made American history come alive for school children)
Louis Pasteur (think pasteurized milk)
William Wilberforce (British politician who worked to abolish slavery)
Joan of Arc (French peasant girl who inspired and lead the French army into battle during the Hundred Years’ War. She was accused of heresy and burned at the stake.)
Jim Elliot (Missionary)
Jim was one of 5 missionaries who were speared to death while trying to bring the Gospel to savage natives in the Amazon of Ecuador in 1956. Their deaths have inspired 60 years of missions in all organizations around the world. Here is the Radio Memorial from 1956 honoring the deaths of the 5 missionaries in Ecuador. And a brief clip from the movie The End of the Spear, where Steve Saint learns of how his father Nate (one of the 5 missionary men) was speared by his adopted, Auca father… and learns how forgiveness can bless for generations. Before his death at the end of a spear, Jim Elliot penned this famous line:
“He is no fool, who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.”
Based on the scripture that says, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life, for my sake, gains it.”
Not everyone leaves a legacy. Even some of the people who try to do so sometimes fail. And some of those who never try to leave their mark end up doing so by chance. Some make their mark in the things they do. Some in the way they lived. Some in their deaths. This uncertainty really bothers me. I just want my life to MEAN something. I want to leave my mark on the world, but I don’t know if I’m succeeding at that. Maybe I just need to chew more gum.