Leaving a Legacy through Stories

The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”  -Kalu Kalu

This is exactly why every human heart needs his or her family history!  Stories give us a foundation, something to stand on.  Our experiences, our stories, shape us.  There’s always something to learn or appreciate or remember from everything we go through–even difficulties.  From our own stories and experiences to the life lessons learned from family history, we are responsible for making sure our legacy is shared.  Family stories, including our stories as a smaller part of family stories, teach our children (and ourselves) that we can do hard things, that good times should be remembered over and over again, and that family ties can be a tremendous source of strength.

What is Legacy?

Everything we do and say is part of our legacy.  What will you do today that will be remembered?  In a culture that is so addicted to wasting time, this is an important thing to consider.  How much of what you do will be valued by friends and family 10 or 50 years from now?

Please think about your legacy because you are writing it every day.”  -Gary Vaynerchuck

Your example, talents, gifts, and values are among the things people remember about you.  They remember your sense of humor, your mind, and the care you show them.  Yes, this may be what they remember about you when you’re gone, but this is also what they will remember about you on Monday when your name comes up at lunch.  Your legacy is basically what you give to the world at this moment, tomorrow, and forever.

Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you’re gone. It’s what you give, create, impact, and contribute today while you’re here that then happens to live on.”  -Rasheed Ogunlaru

Your Legacy

Now for all you SAHMs who are reading this between the fourth and fifth loads of laundry, know that your legacy is like everyone else’s:  it’s drops of awesome that accumulate over time.  (By the way, if you don’t know what Drops of Awesome are, you should definitely visit that link!)  You may not feel like your legacy will ever be like Susan B. Anthony‘s or Eleanor Roosevelt’s, but it really will.  You are creating people (think of that!), families, traditions, and life lessons.  Plus you keep those little people alive with the food, shelter, and clothing you work so hard on every day.  Your legacy will be a lot of things, but it is in large part a legacy of the purest kind of love, and it doesn’t get any better than that.  Ever.

Your story is important to every person who loves you.  Taking time to record it is an invaluable gift to them!  If you missed this month’s post about writing and preserving your own story, {you can find it here}.

The “Before I Was Your Mom” storybook template can be found here by clicking “template gallery,” “browse the gallery,” and entering 132535.  Video tutorials can be found here.

Your Family’s Legacy

Your family’s legacy is your family’s stories.  It’s how your ancestors came to this country, and it’s what they did (and probably overcame) to get here.  It’s how your parents met, how you decided to pursue a trade vs. a college degree, your family’s faith, and what’s important to you.  Your family’s legacy includes funny stories, good memories of time together, stories of grit and perseverance, and cherished family traditions.  It’s your family history.

You can contribute to your family’s legacy by writing down what you know.  {Our story} and your story are good places to start.  “My grandpa always said…” and “I remember we would always…” ARE your family history.  They’re your family’s legacy.

When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us.  We feel part of something greater than ourselves.  Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors.”  -Russell M. Nelson

Build Your Legacy in Three Steps

Brooke Davis breaks down legacy-building into three parts in her article Three Steps to Building Your Own Powerful Legacy:

  1. Look at where you are now, what you’ve learned, and what you can share.  (I love that she also mentions changing direction if you want to.)
  2. Focus on the message you want to convey, then work to develop it.  (“Your legacy is created by intentionally showing up.”)
  3. Think long term to the future while still being present now.  (Look at where you want to be over time.)

You began building your legacy the moment you came into this world. Now it’s time to start or continue being intentional about it. By starting with what you’ve already built, defining your message, and thinking long term, you can continue to become the person who has an impact both in this lifetime and beyond.”  -Brooke Davis

Brooke’s insightful advice can apply to both personal legacy and family legacy.  Look at where you are and where you want to be, then make decisions and changes and efforts to get you there. 

Remember that everyone’s legacy happens drop by drop.

Make a Record

Oral histories and oral stories are great.  Hopefully we’ve all sat at the knee of a great, engaging storyteller.  But for most of us, sitting down and reminiscing or telling family stories isn’t a very common occurrence.  If you’re anything like me, stories just sitting in my head somewhere can be forgotten.  Even if I remember the story, I can forget to tell it.  I wrote a couple of months ago in Building Bridges between Generations Using Photos and Memories that it took a somewhat random moment for me to remember a life-changing experience I had that I had never told my children!  It’s a great story, and one I cherish, but it had never come up in conversation, so I’d never told them about it.

Taking the time to sit down and review your life (with its attending lessons and experience) is not only therapeutic, but it helps you remember things you might not otherwise.  A journal is a great resource if you have it, but if not, you can find some thought-provoking questions here.

Recording your stories is one of the best ways to spend your time because it’s one of the best ways to share your legacy with those who love you.

The DIY storybooks shown were created here.



  1. The American Moms. (2018). Instagram. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BcF6tUZgpZj/?taken-by=theamericanmoms
  2. Davis, Brooke. (2017). Roots of Abundance. Retrieved from https://www.rootsofabundance.com/2017/08/three-steps-building-powerful-legacy/
  3. Heritage Makers. (2018). Retrieved from http://heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise
  4. Thompson, Kathryn. (2012). The Daring Young Mom. Retrieved from http://www.daringyoungmom.com/2012/12/19/drops-of-awesome/
  5. Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/building-bridges-generations-photos-memories/
  6. Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/an-important-part-of-family-history-my-story/
  7. Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.livegrowgive.org/why-every-human-heart-needs-his-or-her-family-history/
  8. Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Life Tales Books and Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/2017/08/interview-questions-to-help-write-life.html
  9. Wise, Jennifer. (2018). Life Tales Books and Personal Publishing. Retrieved from https://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/p/how-to-get-started.html

Jennifer Wise

consultant at Heritage Makers
I'm Jennifer, and I'm passionate about connections.I enjoy helping people discover the very real benefits of preserving stories, photos, and memories because of the impact they have on children, families, and individuals. I blog weekly at www.lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com sharing tips, ideas, solutions, and inspiration, and I'm over at www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise, too. Learn more about me at the "About" tab.

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