I met with an amazing gentleman recently. This man, in his eighties, recalled walking to school with a rifle in hopes of catching a rabbit for dinner. On his luckiest of days, he would see a skunk. Skunk pelts could be sold for $5, which was a lot of money in those days. He finished his story this way: “No one told us we were poor. It never affected us because we didn’t know. We made the best of it, and we have been so blessed.” What a valuable perspective! It was so refreshing to hear his story. I often worry that these histories will be lost; it is so important that we capture where we came from, that we learn from our past, and that we use that to shape our future.
Can you imagine walking to school with a rifle in hopes of catching dinner? Some of you likely can, and perhaps, did. Can the children of today even contemplate that such a life was possible? In this “fast food” world of instant gratification and easy access to anything and everything we can be marketed into needing, is there any awareness of what the past was like? Individuals like this man are still here to tell their stories, which means this type of lifestyle was not that long ago, but these histories are quickly being lost.
Sometimes we have people come to meet with us and wonder if a small estate of their size is worth our time. Please hear me: every single person has a history to share and a legacy to leave someone. Often people come in hoping that we can help them bring clarity, certainty and simplicity to their estate plan. They want the peace of mind that comes when their estate plan is in place. They know we will listen, ask questions, and not be afraid to design an estate plan customized for them. And yet so often, we are the ones who benefit most significantly. The stories we hear are like treasures to us. We hear how lifelong love still exists; that compassion, humility and generosity still abounds; that giving second chances really can pay off; and how often tough love is the more loving choice. These life lessons impact who we are, where we are going, and how we will encounter people.
Remember, you are more valuable than you know, and it is not your balance sheet that makes you valuable. It is who you are and how you impact the world. Go back and look where you came from. Thank those who have helped shaped you. And just as importantly, share your experiences with those you love so they too can learn from them. Whether you have no acres, 160 acres, or 1600 acres, you have a legacy to leave the next generation. Make sure that you are taking steps to develop a legacy plan for your children, charities, and loved ones, so that not only do they know what you want, but also more importantly, they know who you were and what you stood for.