No doubt you’ve seen the Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood where you can go to borrow books or donate a few in return. No questions asked. No fees to pay. No librarians or book sellers to talk to. Just you and a Little Free Library to connect you with other readers in your neighborhood.
What a brilliant idea!
The Little Free Library program is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. (Check their website for special events and discounts.) LFL was the brainchild of Todd Bol to honor his mother who was a school teacher. (Hence the school house designs.) Sadly, Bol died late last year, but he leaves behind a tremendous legacy of literacy and learning and sharing.
In a society that’s become increasingly “shareable,” (ride-sharing, home-sharing, etc.) somehow the idea of sharing books anonymously seems kinder, gentler and not so intrusive. Unlike other shareable businesses that have monetized their services (think Uber and Airbnb), Little Free Library is a non-profit. Though they sell their patented little treehouses on their website, it’s the free exchange of books and the experience of sharing that brings the most value. The people who benefit most are the users, readers like you and me who love to read, who love to collect books and who love sharing what they’ve read with others.
In that way, Bol was a genius. He might have created Little Free Library for his mother’s memory, but you and I are the benefactors. That’s a tremendous legacy to leave behind, hopefully for years to come.
That leads me to wonder about my own legacy. What do I want to create that will have lasting meaning and value? I pose those questions to you as well. What do you want to achieve with your writing, your art or your small business that will make the world a better place?
In the writers’ group I belong to, several members joined because they had personal stories that they wanted – and needed — to tell. One man is writing stories so his teen-aged daughters will understand his personal history and their Asian cultural heritage. Another man is writing a memoir to inspire other young people that it is possible to survive a complicated and emotionally difficult childhood to become a better human being. Yet another member, a young girl still in college, writes to simply bring joy to others. These are their chosen legacies. None of them are focused solely on being published. Instead they hope to publish with a purpose.
I suspect that when it comes legacies, it’s difficult for some of us to choose what that is, or even what it means. Susan Bosak, founder of The Legacy Project, says legacy is about life and living. “It’s about learning from the past, living in the present and building for the future.”
More specifically, she explains that legacy is “an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us.”
Knowing what a legacy is doesn’t make it any easier to decide how to manifest it in our lives. To help sort through it all, ask yourself the following questions:
1. How would you like children and grandchildren to remember you? If you don’t have children, maybe you have nephews and nieces that you can leave your legacy to, or perhaps someone else’s children?
2. What do you see as your primary place or purpose in life? How did you come to that conclusion?
3. What lessons have you learned from your life experiences?
4. If you could solve one problem in our world – and only one problem – what would it be and why?
5. What is your superpower – your best talent? How would you like to use it?
6. Can you tell your life story in six words? (To learn more about six-word memoirs, check out Smith Magazine.) Breaking your life down into six words really cuts to the heart of what’s important to you.
To create a legacy, you first need to see the bigger picture. Then you can begin to write. Writing in and of itself is not the legacy, but a vehicle for achieving the higher purpose through your stories.