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My Great Grandmother's Spoon

n my kitchen cupboard is a battered spoon, together with our daily plates and serving dishes, so I look at it usually at least twice per day. The battered spoon has the initials “CPC”, and is my daily reminder of leaving a legacy.

CPC stands for Cora Pat Chalkley, who was born in 1859 in Chesterfield County Virginia. She was my great great grandmother, and I know little about her, other than she married Roger Herman Chalkley in Richmond Virginia in March of 1884, and gave birth to Lewis Bailey Chalkley, my great-grandfather, in 1887. In addition to Lewis, she had five other children. All her children were born in Kentucky, so I understand that she left her hometown and family in her new life.

I found the spoon when I went through the charity boxes at my grandmother’s house before it was sold. Thankfully at the time, I was actively researching my ancestry and realised whose spoon that it was. At that point, even though it was severely battered and basically unusable (inevitably after a run through the American Garbage Grinder), I decided to keep it (as it also fit quite conveniently in my luggage). In a sense, the spoon is a part of Cora’s legacy. Another part of Cora’s legacy were all the people who live because of her.

As I started the journey into changing my career, one of the instrumental activities for me was the thought of my legacy, or the impact I would have on the world when I am gone. Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gives the exercise of the funeral speech. In any case, it is the deep examination of the core values, relationships, and impacts that I want to make on the world. As a teenager and through my 20’s, there were concrete goals leading to what I was sure would be happiness, at the end of the career achievement, when I finally reached management. During that time, I participated in some charitable activities, such as Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters, but really didn’t think a whole lot about my contribution to a greater good, other than breaking through the glass ceiling, which I saw as my contribution to the world.

As time and years went by, making a difference and being a positive impact began to take a higher priority over career and titles. During the past few years, the thought of my legacy, of what I will leave behind, who will I have impacted, what is better because I have lived, is what gets me out of bed in the morning and drives my priorities. It is what leaves me at the end of the week with a feeling of satisfaction, and the energy to get up and go get ‘em for the next week.

A part of my legacy is, of course, my daughter. In the years that Anders and I will have her with us, I only hope that I can teach her well, that she will leave us and become a light in the world. That whatever path she chooses, is a path where she will have positive influence, and a goal of leaving things a bit better because she was here.

For the rest of my time, it is my writing, my teaching, my consulting and coaching that I hope will leave my legacy. That there will be at least a few people in the world, who have helped find themselves and their place and contribution in the world because of me.

I am Cora’s (and many others’) legacy. What will yours be?

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