Honoring Parents and Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a legacy is one of the deepest needs that a human being has. Nobody wants to feel that their life was a waste. We all need to know that our presence on this planet has made a difference. Even Captain Kirk, portrayed by William Shatner (no comment on the man's acting abilities), in his final Star Trek movie, is motivated to make the ultimate sacrifice because he will have "Made a difference."

The legacy parents dream of is for their children to succeed and even surpass them. Parents want their kids to live the good values that they teach them. So how do we do it?

The way that Abraham, our patriarch, did it. His legacy was the Jewish people itself. And his method was the method of "walking." Let me explain.

There are lots of aspects of our lives that people can remember. Our legacy, or legacies, can come in so many fashions. Some people want to leave a financial legacy, others wish to leave property, still others wish to leave things they have created, lessons they have learned, rules they have lived by. It's all good, it's all legitimate. But, and pardon my being morbid, what will they write on the headstone?

Do you know what it says on the headstone of Mel Blanc, creator of Bugs Bunny? Yes, believe it or not, this is what he asked them to write: "That's all, folks." When I first heard that, I had a deep laugh and thought it was very superficial. Then, I thought about it some more. And I decided that it is a fantastic legacy that that man gave us.

Yes, he gave us laughter. He made generations of kids smile and be happy. He brought joy into the world, and that is a great legacy. That epitaph, "That's all folks," is one he and his descendents can be so proud of!

Abraham's legacy was the legacy of faith. He taught us to believe, to persevere, to stand up for our values even if it's dangerous to do so. That is the "what" of Abraham's legacy. What is his "how?" How did he make his legacy stick?

Through walking. In the Bible, Abraham walks everywhere. That word is mentioned in connection to his name countless times. "Walk forth out of your birthplace," "and Abraham walked to his journeys," "rise up and walk throughout the land." And many more.

Walking means three things. The first thing is perseverance. Walking is a repetitive motion, step after step after step. Whatever the legacy and values you seek to transmit, you can't live them today and forget them tomorrow. They have to be the very way that you walk, they have to be something you repeat and repeat all the time. That is the first way people will watch you and learn from you.

The second thing walking means is physically doing it. It means, as the expression goes, walking the walk, not just talking the talk. A legacy can't be taught intellectually alone, it must be demonstrated in our lives. Then it will stick.

The third thing walking means is being present. When we walk, we go places. We are physically present in the lives of our children and grandchildren. We show up, we are there. We are not long-distance legacy givers. Legacies delivered long-distance don't fare nearly as well as legacies that are transmitted while holding hands.

And that is the best way to teach kids to respect their parents. When the parents commit themselves to an elevated legacy, and live that legacy day in and day out, walking the walk, and with close connection to their children, respect will come naturally. Respect comes from expecting it, not by force of force, but by force of values and love and honesty.