My family brought me to the Philippines when I was a kid, and on our travels, I was fascinated by a pond with a lot of ducks. When I found out it was poisoned, I begged my dad to do something. He didn't think there was an easy solution. But my 9 year old mind did, it's easy, "Build a pond in the backyard." That's what we did for our adopted duck (the others were also adopted and saved by others).
Growing up in the middle of the 20th century, my father told me that I could do and be anything that I chose. And in those days, most little girls didn't hear statements like that. So the idea for the duck pond was just me parroting back what my father instilled in me. It didn't seem like a hard task, it seemed like the right thing to do. Doing the right thing is a choice and a positive approach that I strive to consistently make in life and business.
Are you doing the right thing? When they visit your tombstone, what will they say about you? What will your Legacy be? People have given big and had their names on buildings, but I'm not convinced that those acts are more generous than someone who "just" helped one child. Some of the most fabulous (and selfless) acts are being done with big thoughts, and not just big dollars.
Giving back should be a big part of your Legacy. In the beginning of the Fall, I visited India to see some of the villages that I didn't get a chance to see when I was a part of Relief Riders, International. During those trips to India, I raised money to get goats for families in remote villages. Once a family gets a goat in these areas, the family's status changes immensely. The goats provide a great supply of milk and cheese. The money raised also helped buy sports equipment for the schools that we visited. Currently, there is a hotel under construction in Rajasthan that will be a big boost to the local economy, so I went to check out its progress and see how I could help. When I told this news to Mercedes Ellington of The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, they offered to help open the hotel with a performance with local musicians. That organization just visited Abu Dhabi, in order to bring jazz to the people. As a past board member, I am aware that they are committed to being of service and doing the right thing.
I have been putting roundtables together in order to foster female entrepreneurship and philanthropy. These sessions have enabled very capable women of collaborating and giving back to communities here and abroad. One of my new colleagues, a respected specialist in pediatric cancer is working hard to improve the infrastructure of a medical center in South Africa, so that there is clean water (among other things) and food not just for the cancer patients, but the families as well. Other budding philanthropists from these sessions are finding ways to help others in Sweden, the U.K. and right here in America.
Giving locally or internationally, whatever you choose to do does not conflict with each other. We all live in one world. Whoever or however we help; doing the right thing benefits the world. The major problem is that we don't know enough about each other and our challenges. And it shouldn't matter how much money you have or made, it's all about what you have given ... that's your Legacy.
Did you help a neighbor in need? Did you write a letter of support for the needy? It doesn't have to be the big things, it just has to be the right thing.
A friend of mine decided to take care of an elderly uncle, so she got him out of the nursing home and brought him to her apartment. He spent his last years surrounded by family and was very comfortable and happy because of this. Years later, a friend of that woman did the same thing with her mother-in-law, because of the example she set. Doing the right thing is quite contagious.
It starts with a thought. Then the research to find how you can help. Then doing the right thing and giving your brain, your time or wallet and your heart.
What will your Legacy be?