Tag Archive for: Legacy

In his booming voice, Dr. Rick Rigsby, author of Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout and former professor and coach at Texas A&M, recently spoke. He asked, “Are you living the kind of life that’s worthy of somebody following?”  Everyone is leaving a legacy. That legacy is either “It’s all about me,” or “I’m going to make excellence central in my life so I can leave something worthy of someone else following.”

Rigsby learned his most important life lessons from a third grade dropout: his father, who dropped out of school to help on the family farm.  

“My father, the wisest man I ever knew, told me, ‘Don’t expect other people to do for you what you can do for yourself.’ If you don’t have somebody teaching you, you aren’t going to know that. He also taught me, ‘It’s not about you.’ Can you help other people? My father had nothing. But he did leave a legacy on my life.”

For 30 years, Rigsby’s father left the house at 3:45 a.m. to get to work by 5 a.m., even though it was only a 15-minute walk. One morning his wife asked him why he left so early, and he replied, “There may be a morning when my boys see me get up, and I want them to know that showing up on time is the basic minimum. I’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.”

Rigsby challenged us to raise our expectations and grow our hearts for the disadvantaged. “The goal is to die broke after giving your best. When I was a child,” he said, “we were required to eat together at the table…at the same time. Expectations were high. That time was a blessing. What are you going to do with the blessings you have received? My mom would tell us, if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

During Rigsby’s teen years, his father told him, “I’m not going to have a problem if you aim high and miss, but I’m going to have a real problem if you aim low and hit.” 

His father also taught him to stand and be a man. To make his point, Rigsby shared this story: “When I was 16 years old, I had an Afro so big I couldn’t fit into a VW. I came home with an attitude one day. I told my dad, ‘Dad, that white man told me I had to scrub toilets. Daddy, I don’t scrub toilets. I fry French fries. I make hamburgers.’ 

“My father responded, ‘Son, what does the color of one’s skin have to do with you displaying excellence?’

 “I realized this was not going to go the way I thought. He asked me, ‘Who signs your paycheck?’ 

“I told him and he said, ‘As long as he signs your paycheck, you do what he tells you to do. When you own your own restaurant you can do what you want. I want you to leave your car in the driveway. I want you to walk back to Jack in the Box and tell your boss your daddy said you are honored to volunteer for an eight-hour shift and all you want to do is scrub toilets. And when I see your boss later in the week he better tell me you’re his best employee.’”

That exchange between Rigsby and his father still impacts Rigsby today as he raises his own children.

Here are some of the other life lessons about leaving a legacy Rigsby learned from his father:

  • Look for opportunities to help people who need help the most. Not everyone has the luxury of having healthy role models. The goal is to give your all so you can give somebody else the opportunity to grow. 
  • Challenge yourself to be the best you can be every day. Great people are always stretching, growing and doing things that other people don’t. Ask yourself how you can be great today, not for yourself, but to get others to go where they will not go by themselves. 
  • Give people a reason for which to listen to you. When you go beyond the chains and shackles of your own sense of self-importance and commit to inconveniencing yourself for the sake of others, people will listen to you. We aren’t drawn to people who think it’s all about them.
  • Tell the truth, do what you say you’re going to do, and think the best of people.
  • Be a servant and make sure you have a smile on your face because somebody’s day might need uplifting. It’s not about you. 
  • How you do anything is how you do everything. You are what you repeatedly do, therefore excellence should be a habit, not an act.
  • Don’t ever be on time again. You will grow your influence when you show up early.
  • Don’t judge people. Evaluate yes, judge never.

“I have been all over the world,” Rigsby said. “We look at somebody different than us and decide whether or not we will connect with them based on our limited perception of them. How can you help somebody that you have already deemed unworthy? If all you see is what you see, you don’t see all there is that needs to be seen.” 

As he concluded, Rigsby shared about his first wife, who died of breast cancer. He said that a dying wife taught him how to life and be a man. His third grade dropout daddy, who wept as he stood with his son over the casket, told his son, “Keep standing. Just keep standing.” His father challenged him every day to put first things first.

Through the grief, Rigsby continued to stand. Eventually, he found new love with his wife, Janet. Together, not only are they building a legacy with their own children, they are also challenging others to seek to do the basics of relationships and leave a legacy better than anybody else. 

“Don’t quit. Keep standing. Pride is the burden of a foolish person. You will never impact anybody if you make it all about you. Serve at the most inopportune time.”

Greg Vaughn lost his father to Alzheimer’s years ago.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Vaughn. “I know my dad loved me because he made sure our family was taken care of. But he never could say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Son, I am proud of you.’ That void left a hole in my soul.”

As Vaughn was going through his father’s things, he kept looking for something left from his dad to him. The only thing he found was a rusty old fishing tackle box.

“I was mad at my dad for dying,” Vaughn says. “I was mad at myself for not trying harder to connect with him and started to throw that old fishing box in the trash. Then I decided to see what was inside. There, I found the remains of my father – fishing lures.

“As I felt myself getting angrier, a question popped into my head, ‘Hey big shot, you are out here mad at the world. If you were to die here in the garage, what would your wife and children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know they were the treasures of your life?’”

The answer caught Vaughn by surprise. He had always told his children and wife how much he loved them. Additionally, they made it a point to go on family vacations, which brought great memories. However, when it came to something tangible they could hold in their hands and treasure forever from him, he couldn’t think of anything he had given them. That’s when he had the idea for Letters from Dad.

“I called 12 of my closest friends and asked them if any of them had a letter of love and blessing from their father – not counting cards,” Vaughn says. “Not a single one of them said yes. Then I asked, ‘What would you give to have one?’ The answer was always, ‘More than you could imagine.’ Then I asked each of them if they had ever written a letter like that to their children. None of them had. I looked at each of them and said, ‘Don’t you think we should?’”

That was the beginning of a very special journey for these men. They decided they wanted to leave a legacy of faith, hope and love through the lost art of letter writing.

“Men hate to write letters,” Vaughn states. “But we decided to write four letters, the first being a letter of blessing to our wives. We had some divorced men in the group. One guy chose to write a letter to his ex-wife of 10 years thanking her for making him a father. It was a healing experience for both of them.”

The second letter the group decided to write was a blessing to their children. Since Vaughn has seven children, that was a real stretch for him.

Vaughn’s daughter, Brooke, shared that until her dad gave her a letter of blessing, her most-prized possession was a coat hanger from age 10 where her father wrote, “Hey Beck – I love you – Dad.” On her 22nd birthday, she got the letter with 15 reasons why she was a blessing as a daughter. Now she says, “I have more than a coat hanger to remember my dad.”

“The third letter we chose to write was a blessing to our parents,” Vaughn remembers. “Some of us had parents who had died so we wrote letters of tribute. The fourth and final letter was by far the hardest to write. It was for our families to read after we died. Most of us leave wills and trusts and rusty old stuff. What do we leave for our families to treasure forever?”

After they finished writing their letters, the guys decided to continue meeting monthly just to stay in touch and walk the fathering journey together.

Letters from Dad has increased in popularity as fathers seek to leave a legacy to their wives and children. If you hate to write or find yourself at a loss for words, the book has lots of samples. Plus, the author is happy for you to use some of the words yourself.

Whether your children are young or old, live near or far, are estranged from you or considering never leaving the fold, you can still leave a legacy. So, consider writing a letter… or two.

It has been said that life is about leaving a legacy. Mother’s Day is a great time to celebrate the legacy of moms and those who have come alongside us as stand-in moms, whether for a season at college or life in general.

According to a 2017 study of 2,000 American moms with kids between 5 and 12, commissioned by Welch’s, being a mom is the equivalent of working at least 2 1/2 full-time jobs. The study found that a mom works an average of 98 hours per week. 

The average mom starts her day around 6:23 a.m. and doesn’t stop until 8:31 p.m. And, she is lucky to get an hour and seven minutes to herself each day. Four out of 10 moms said their lives feel like never-ending series of tasks all week.

This information made me think about my life as a mom and my mother’s life as she parented three children, many of those years on her own.

My brother Lee was two years older than I and my sister Diane is 5 years younger than I.

My mom was 22 years old when she had my brother, and the doctors said he had a 50/50 chance of survival. On day seven, they took him out of the incubator and sent him home. At 4 months old, Lee became diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The physicians said he would be a quadriplegic, unable to walk.

At 10 months, my mother suspected a hearing problem when she noticed that Lee did not respond when she called his name. A hearing test confirmed a severe to moderate hearing problem. Lee was enrolled at the speech and hearing center when he was 2, where they learned he had significant learning challenges.

Growing up, I witnessed my mom being a ferocious mama bear when it came to making sure my brother had what he needed to learn and grow.

My sister and I certainly were not neglected, but my brother had some pretty focused needs. My mom stepped completely out of her comfort zone to advocate for Lee and make a difference for many others who faced all kinds of challenges. At one point she was the statewide president of the association for children with learning disabilities. Not only did my brother learn to walk and talk, he also graduated from high school with a special diploma and went on to do great things.

Lee passed away at the age of 56, having lived an incredible life. Although he faced many challenges, nothing discouraged him from embracing and living life full-on. Though he was far from perfect in the world’s eyes, Lee took his opportunities very seriously. Whether volunteer coaching middle school football or basketball or taking people’s dirty dishes in the cafeteria at K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge, Lee was all in. One time his basketball team lost by one point at the buzzer. As the coaches assessed the situation outside the locker room, one of the coaches asked Lee what he thought. He looked up and said, “I did my job.” He loved people and became affectionately referred to as the Mayor of Oak Ridge.

After my brother passed away, I was thinking about my mom’s legacy. For 60 years of her life, I’m pretty positive my mom worked at least 2 1/2 full-time jobs as she parented the three of us. Even on the most challenging days, she just kept putting one foot in front of the other and carried on. My mom’s example made a profound impact on her family.

Watching my mom navigate life taught me how to be strong, passionate and relentless. I learned that taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone is part of living a full life. Through her love of cooking and entertaining, I have carried on many of her traditions and started some of my own. I also learned the importance of doing things right the first time. And yes, to my horror, I have opened my mouth at times to say something and heard my mom’s words come out with a phrase I’m sure I swore I would never say to my child. Sometimes you just have to laugh, right?

Every year on Mother’s Day, we celebrate the legacy of moms, whether they gave birth, chose to adopt or became one in some other way. Sometimes motherhood can feel like a thankless job. Truth be told, it is the chance to give the gift of life and leave a powerful impression on children. To my mom, the women who have spoken into my life, and all of the moms and women who have filled the role of mom through the years: Thank you!