Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Will You Leave Behind?

Death and taxes - it's been said that those are the only guarantees in life. Truth is, death is a certainty. Unless, of course, Christ decides enough is enough and returns before death can sting us. But if we do draw our last breath here, what will we leave behind? What type of legacy will we pass on? Some of us have a broad reach. Some of us a shorter reach, but no less significant. Your legacy may be to pour into your children, and perhaps they will grow up to have a broad reach that affects millions through some calling, gift, or talent. But it started with a father or a mother whose reach seemed small, but was indeed great in the long run. We shouldn't compare ourselves among ourselves. It is indeed unwise. But we should all look to discover what it is that God has blessed us with or called us to do, and make the most of it today so that tomorrow we won't be filled with regret - asking ourselves, "I wonder what might have been...?" And we shouldn't keep it to ourselves.

I recently read the amazing story of a lady named Vivian Maier. She was a nanny in Chicago in the 50's and 60's. She never married and lived a very unassuming life. Nobody would have ever known there was anything special and unique about Vivian if they hadn't discovered boxes and boxes of over 30,000 film negatives upon her death. And what a discovery it is turning out to be. Even though she never lived to see it, she is now being heralded as one of the greatest - if not the greatest - street photographer ever. If you don't know what street photography is, you're missing out. This type of photography captures real life moments - nothing staged or fake. Yet they are moments that will take your breath away - a child laughing while they splash in a puddle or an elderly woman staring deeply back at you. They could be beautiful, melancholy, dark, simple - but all true life stills. They are pictures of life captured often without the object of the photo even knowing. Her work is astonishing, and experts are just beginning to understand the scope of her work - which is second to none. This was her hidden hobby - her personal passion. It's just something she did, but because of her reclusive lifestyle nobody ever knew about this talent - what she was really great at. Even now a man named John Maloof is going through the tedious task of digitizing all of her photos, with the goal of making her work available to the public via print media and gallery displays. He is the 26 year old Chicago real estate agent who "discovered" her when he purchased the contents of a repossessed storage locker that belonged to the by then deceased Vivian Maier. What started out as the surprise find of a lifetime chronicled in his blog has turned into a life-altering venture of introducing the world to Vivian's art. A company called Kickstarter is gathering funds to tell her story in documentary form - "Finding Vivian Maier". I look forward to its release.

Vivian died at 83 in 2009 never knowing that her secret life's work is now amazing the world. I think this is both incredible and sad. Incredible to have such a gift and passion that can be weighed and measured - with the capability of benefiting and inspiring millions; but sad that no one knew this while she was alive. Just think if she had shared this with the world while she was alive! Who knows why she lived her whole life with no one knowing her and knowing this about her, but what a legacy she has left! Just think how much greater that legacy could have been had she shared this gift out loud. Or maybe she didn't have the support or encouragement she needed and therefore, she alone knew of her gift and passion. But I think the lesson here for all of us is to embrace the gift of life that God has given us, and with that gift pursue what He has put within us to do. A calling. A talent. A passion. Share it. Live it. Love it. Don't settle. Don't compromise. Don't hide it. Don't be ashamed or fearful. Take a risk. Step out in faith. If there are obstacles in the way, by God's grace and persistence - overcome them and use them as stepping stones to get to the next level. And once there, really live joyfully and peacefully - knowing that you are doing what God gave you to do. It may take time, but don't give up, and don't hide away. While there is a happy ending to this story that will live on forever, it is sad to think that, even though she created such amazing art, no one knew while she was alive. No one really knew her. Find what it is God has blessed you with, and share it, and leave behind a legacy - not to be accidentally discovered, but a legacy left on purpose. Something you knowingly built during your life that will live on even after you are gone, and, in the words of Russell Crowe's character in Gladiator, something that will "echo in eternity." What legacy are you working on building even now in your life, for your family, your friends, your community, your church, your country, your world? I know I was challenged by this story of Vivian Maier. I hope you are too. And I hope you get to check out her amazing work! Peace.