Let me tell you a story about my friend, Ivan. He comes out every day to sit on the bus stop bench. But not to catch the bus. Ivan likes to talk to people and the best place to make friends when you have nowhere to go is at the bus stop. When you sit in one spot all day long you become familiar with people’s schedules and you get to know them. Ivan used to have a different life. He was a taxi cab driver madly in love with the only woman he could ever imagine spending his life with. But one day, Ivan became ill and was admitted to the hospital. By the time he got well and was ready to leave the healthcare system, his woman was gone…with his heart 20 years ago. But Ivan has hope. He gets up every morning and dresses in his hat and shined shoes and visits the bus stop. If you talk to him long enough he will crack the biggest and happiest grin as he confesses he knows she is the woman for him. One day he hopes she will find him. But until then, he hangs out at the bus stop with his Bible and chats with anyone interested in listening.
You see, my favorite part of meeting people is listening to their stories. I want to know where they came from, what makes them tick, and where they aspire to go tomorrow. I know Ivan’s schedule because the bus stop is on the block I live. I can walk right out and say hello to him most any day the weather is fair. On the hot summer days, nothing makes Ivan open up with his smile and his stories quicker than a cold beer. So that’s what we do.
This fascination with people has always been in my blood. Working in healthcare, it was easy to saturate my days with opportunity to listen to stories. My calling was senior healthcare, so you can imagine the decades of stories I have cataloged in my mind. I am amazed at the love stories, moved by the heartbreak, and pained over the devastating images so many carry with them. It’s easy for me to hold a leathery hand that has seen 90 years of life. It’s natural to sit beside a lonely 75 year-old and hope they have a legacy willing to share with me. I allow the secrets to trickle out that some have had locked up for decades. A twinkle of the eye as he describes the first time he laid eyes on his bride of 68 years; the quiet shudder as she bears the memory of her baby’s passing; the humble voice of a man that is still alive because his fellow platoon soldier made the ultimate sacrifice for him. All of these stories are what makes each individual who they are today; whether it is a bitterly angry or a gracefully aging person. There are so many legacies that stay quietly tucked inside of each of these beautiful beings, if we only stop and listen.
As I reflect on the life legacies I’ve been blessed with, I wonder, what will my legacy be? Was I kind to all that came into my life? Did I leave good memories in my crease on time? What stories will be cataloged in someone else’s memories of me? If there is one thing I have learned from all of these nuggets of history it is this: it’s not so much about moving mountains or making history. It’s about asking oneself, “How did I conduct the business of living even when I think nobody is looking?” These are the moments that matter. We all leave this life with the same thing in our possession. Nothing. But those left behind have everything. Our Legacy.
“The sum of a man’s life was not where he wound up but in the details that brought him there.” –Change of Heart, Jodi Picoult