Saturday, October 24, 2009

Legacy – Being Aware of our Impact

I was thinking about my friend Donna Butler today.

Donna is one of those people who always comes up in conversation whenever people of my graduating class get together.

Earlier this summer, I was reconnected with two friends from high school that I hadn’t seen in 28 years.

Within five minutes of each of our initial conversations, the inevitable question was asked by each of them:

Do you remember Donna?

Both guys went on to describe the impact that Donna had in their lives.

I know all about it – I think about her impact on me all the time.

If you will allow me a moment, I will tell you about Donna.

She was like any other typical kid in many ways.  She was smart.  She was cute.  She seemed up more than she was down.  She always had a kind word to say about someone.  She spoke of her brothers a lot.

Her life in many ways seemed to be quite normal.  She didn’t aspire to be in the limelight and her impact on others seemed to be typical for a kid her age.

Donna did have something that we didn’t have.  She had a heart that wasn’t healthy.  She died in 1983 at the age of 18 of a congenital heart defect.

While we were stunned and saddened at the time, such things occasionally happen and we moved on in life.

So I thought.

I thought I was the only one that thought about Donna a lot but it seems like a lot of people think about her on a fairly regular basis.

I was thinking about this today and wondering how one who lived such a seemingly ordinary life could have left such an impact on us.

Then it occurred to me.

Donna saw the best in people, regardless of who they were.

She worked hard, not because it brought her public acclaim, but because it seemed the right thing to do.

She spoke words of wisdom without trumpeting them or pushing them down your throat.

She wanted everyone to be happy and did her best to help everyone around her.

If someone spoke harshly to her, she didn’t return the act with venomous words.

She was always smiling.

She did all of this for only one reason – it seemed to be the natural thing to do.

In living a life of unselfish giving and doing it as naturally as you or I breathe, she left an incredible, powerful legacy on those who were lucky enough to have met her.

This got me to thinking about the legacy that we all leave behind.  Many times, we work so hard to leave a personal or professional legacy as we would want it defined – wanting to get the legacy just right.

Many times, the legacy that we leave will not result from the things that we tried to create willfully.

Our legacy will come from the things we do naturally, from the things we do when no one is looking, from the things we do when we are significantly challenged and from the things we do because they are simply the right things to do.

That’s what Donna did.  While many of us have gone on in life to create personal or professional success, the one that everyone remembers and talks about is Donna.

Thank you, Donna.  Twenty six years after you have left us, you are still teaching us.

Which brings me to this question:

How is your legacy doing?

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Legacy – Being Aware of our Impact”, please click here.


  1. Harry,

    I think this is a wonderful story about how people can impact our lives even in a short lifespan. Wonderful and thought provoking! Thank you for sharing this with me.

  2. Harry,

    I think this is a wonderful story about how people can impact our lives even in a short lifespan. Wonderful and thought provoking! Thank you for sharing this with me as it took me down memory lane to the people who have impacted my life. I can visualize the memories of some very wonderful people.


  3. Harry, I've just now come upon this story. Donna and I were schoolmates from kindergarten through highschool and I can attest to the fact that she really WAS that pleasant. It used to take her a bit longer to get to class once we reached QE and she would often be panting for breath by the time she arrived if she had to climb stairs, yet she would giggle and smile as the teachers would gently welcome her after we all had been seated. Like you, I think about Donna and wonder what kind of woman, mother and friend she could have grown to if corrective procedures had been available to her back then.
    Diane (Morgan)Spurrell