Since the Olympics a lot of people have been talking about the legacy of the event, and other kinds of legacy. While I am a little sceptical that public attitudes have significantly changed, either to sport or to disabilities, I would be pleased to think that some young people have been inspired to do more sport. I have supported a campaign by Avaaz (and you can too) to stop Michael Gove from selling off some of London’s school playing fields. While the Olympic facilities looked great, young people still need local areas to practise. The Paralympic games were also a great success, and I was delighted the mascot was named Mandeville since I benefited from treatment at Stoke Mandeville hospital when I was small. Without this I would have had far more personal understanding of living with a disability. It is amazing what some athletes are able to do in spite of what we sometimes call disabilities. Again there is another political angle to consider in the form of the much criticised work capability assessments conducted by key sponsor ATOS. I hesitate to think what the long term impact of the current coalition government will be on public services.
At church a couple of weeks back we were encouraged to think about our legacy as a group of believers, and to consider the long term impact we have on our community and the people we know. Getting caught up in the bustle of day to day life it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. How many of our daily concerns will actually make a difference in fifty years’ time? What are we doing to make a lasting difference to the neighbourhood where we live, to our family and friends, or to the wider world?
For many people, their children are a major part of their lasting legacy, and this goes a long way to justifying the considerable time and energy most parents invest in these young lives. Even the mundane and repetitive tasks involved in keeping children alive and developing healthily are clearly vital if we want to contribute to their future impact as citizens, community members and potential parents. Every person who has ever changed the world once relied on someone else to feed, clean, clothe and nurture them. And in the spirit that it takes a village to raise a child, this is something we can all be part of, supporting other children and parents even if we do not have children of our own.
But children are not the only thing we leave behind, and I am grateful that there are many other ways that we can make a difference for the future. Completing my PhD and getting some work published felt like making a contribution to academia, and I hope that some of my lecturing work also imparts something that will be remembered and make a difference in the lives of my students and the people they work with in the future. While I don’t expect to inspire everyone, there are particular lecturers and teachers who I remember as being influential in my life and I want to be that for a few people at least. Perhaps there’s potential for a legacy in blogging and sharing songs as well.
I’ve been blessed recently with an unexpected bequest from a family friend who died and it’s a challenge to think what I can do with the money I pass on and save. Charitable giving leaves a legacy of its own – it’s sobering to think how much difference even relatively small amounts can make in areas where people live in poverty. Organisations like WaterAid provide safe water and sanitation in places where this literally saves lives. How many lives can I save today? What potential can I release in individuals and families who could go on to change the world in ways I can’t imagine? I also want to recognise the legacy of my family friend, who worked tirelessly as a medical social worker and volunteer and made a difference to so many people. She introduced me to the Iona Community and the Edinburgh Festival and brought a lot of joy to family holidays and through visits and phonecalls. She didn’t marry or have children but lived a full life as a pioneering social worker who changed practice in her work as well as leaving friends with fond memories as well as careful savings. Thank you, Jean. I hope that when we embrace again in heaven I can look back on my life and think I made the most of all I’ve been given, and learned something from your example.