Every parent whether rich or poor, black, Latino or white, can leave his or her children a legacy of purpose. But what does that actually mean? It’s so easy to be down on yourself because your last name is not Rockefeller or Gates. You look around and see other people giving more to their kids than you ever could. You feel everyone else’s child has a huge financial upstart and educational advantage than yours, while you’re just trying to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads. The last thing you’re thinking about is a legacy. Heck, you can’t even afford to say the word. That’s a rich people’s word. Even the sound of the word is intimidating.
Leaving a legacy of purpose is not about money. Leaving a legacy of purpose means teaching your children the true value and purpose of life. Money comes and it goes. But purpose lives forever. What is the purpose of your family? What’s the foundation that holds it together? If it’s money, then your family is weak and its foundation won’t last. Whether you make six figures a year or $8 an hour, you can afford to leave your family a legacy of purpose. The following are three key fundamentals in building a legacy of purpose.
1. Establish a profound identity
Who are you? Your family’s identity has to be without limits. My mother from infancy taught us we are children of God. This wasn’t about just religion. In teaching us this, she helped shape our family’s identity. I’ve never felt limited by my gender or my color because I’ve always known I was a child of the Creator of the heavens and the universe. This doesn’t mean I’ve never suffered racism, sexism or discrimination. On the contrary, I just refuse to have others define me based on hate when my identify has already been established and rooted in love.
Moms and dads, share God with your children. The relationship they create over a lifetime will be their lifeline, foundation and indentity. When your kids know who they are, no one else can limit or define them, and this creates a moral compass as they navigate life’s journey. Even when they fail, they’ll be reminded who they truly are and come back to themselves. But if they don’t have this identity, they remain lost.
2. Make service a requirement
Your kids need to see you serving others. But you say, “I don’t have time to volunteer. I’m too busy trying to work to pay bills.” Well when paying bills and chasing the dollar supersedes everything else, you’re showing your kids how to live enslaved to money. You’re making money the most important pursuit in life. This is a dangerous example. But when you volunteer in the community with your children, you teach them compassion, service and empowerment. You show them that people are valuable and people, even working people, can be heroes. Show your kids they’re not too small to make a big impact.
3. Model deliberate love
Show your kids how to be a good spouse by being a good spouse. If you’re a single parent, show your kids how to first love self by being good to yourself. They’re watching how you love and behave in relationships. It’s not about being a phony. Share your love lessons and don’t repeat those mistakes. A legacy of purpose can be derailed if your child has the wrong views on love and relationships. The right spouse and love partnership is the heart of a family, and family is the foundation of a community and country. Show and teach your kids the value of love. Love is kind and pure. Love isn’t violent. It doesn’t tear down and destroy. Modeling love for self and others, that’s a legacy of purpose.
So no matter who you are or what financial bracket you find yourself or what neighborhood you call home, you can afford to leave your children a legacy of purpose. It’s never too late to start.