“We are a continuum. Just as we reach back to our ancestors for our fundamental values, so we, as guardians of that legacy, must reach ahead to our children and their children. And we do so with a sense of sacredness in that reaching.” Paul Tsongas
We recently held the Annual Kimray Shareholder meeting. Over the last few months we have been dialoguing with the shareholders about Kimray and what they believe is important. One of the overwhelmingly consistent responses we got was a desire to preserve the legacy of Kimray.
So, in one of the meetings I asked what they thought the legacy was. I did not get many clear answers. In general, there is a sense that Kimray is good and we need to project that good into the future.
The dictionary defines legacy as: “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”
Something received from the past.
We have received many things from the past. Not all of them are good. The legacy we seek to maintain could be good, but it could have negative aspects also. How do we tell the difference? How do we know what to keep and what to discard?
As the shareholders pushed into the question of legacy, there was consensus that the core values and mission went a long way in defining the “legacy” they so wanted to preserve. This is how we determine which of our past behaviors, attitudes and ideas we protect and which we throw away. They are the measure by which we judge both the past and the present.
I have some things that passed to me when my grandfather died. They are not particularly valuable to other people, but to me they are priceless. Priceless because of what the mean to me, what they say to me, what they remind me of. What if I put those things away in order to keep them safe, but never tell my children the stories, never show them the things that will someday be theirs, never give them meaning? When I die, and my children come upon those things they will find them no more valuable a stranger might, and will discard them.
In the quote above, Paul Tsongas says that in order to guard our legacy we must reach ahead. We must act as part of a continuum. It is a sacred duty. We must teach those who are coming behind us the stories. We must show them the artifacts and give them meaning. We must make the legacy as real for them as I hope it is for us.
This is hard work, but it is rewarding and energizing. We must be about the task of telling our story every day, weaving it into the fabric of the present so it will be part of the future. We must make the voices of the past real and give shape and form to the images that are fading even as I write this.
In this way we will preserve the legacy, that which we received from our predecessor, our past. In this way we will hold in the present that which is good and willingly release what is not. If we are blessed (and I believe we are) those who come after us will know the value of what they hold in their hands and they too will pass it on.