By: Korie Marshall
The word “legacy” is often used when we talk about what a person hopes to leave behind, especially when they are working on a big project. A big potential project in our area recently got me thinking about how many negative connotations I associate with the word and the idea of leaving a legacy.
When I see a list of the non-profit organizations working in the Robson Valley, or see a list of projects applying for funding, or the stream of news releases about available grants or grants coming in to our communities from provincial and federal government – I see how much work is going on here. I see how many people are trying to bring to life one vision or another. I see how much we’ve been able to accomplish, and how much more we want to do – and how many people it actually takes to get anything done.
Behind each of those organizations or projects, we often think we see the hand of one or two people, at least at any given time. But people rarely get anything done entirely on their own, and what might have been the idea of one person often goes through transformation with another person, or it comes into someone else’s hands who can better manage it. Some people have great ideas but other priorities to work on. Some people fall in love with someone else’s idea and it becomes their own. Each person that interacts with a project has the potential to affect it.
The word “legacy” means something that is left behind for future generations, and that shouldn’t be a bad thing. I think my issue with the word stems from the fact that it implies a direct link, usually to a specific person. We talk about legacies in wills, like leaving property or money to someone when you die, or of something that is transmitted to you from your ancestors. A really great project could certainly be that, it should certainly live beyond you when you are no longer involved.
But it is never just one person that is responsible for bringing a project to fruition, though we do often see just a few people getting credit for certain things. There are often political reasons, like ministers who want to make the big announcements because it looks good for them and their party in an upcoming election. Sometimes crediting the right people helps link a project to other successful ventures, or to big issues of the day that will get people thinking and agreeing about a project. Sometimes people have reason to remove themselves from association with a particular project, maybe because they don’t agree with what it has evolved into, or because their connection is not portraying a positive image in some people’s view. Good projects survive all of those things.
Someone recently said to me that a promising project should go ahead and survive even if all those currently involved, as valuable as they are, were to disappear or change. He said the factual reasons that make a project promising are what should drive our discussion of the project, not the people involved. He was referring to one particular project, one he is trying to build, but he was also sharing a philosophy that I agree with. That getting the right people together can make a project easier, but if it is only good people, it’s no good. That a really good project or a good organization survives no matter who is driving it. That building something that survives is not about you, but about removing yourself – so that when you are gone it does survive.
There are lots of things we work on at any given time that don’t need to survive us – how we make the bed, our ideas for rearranging the living room, the perfect deck in our front yard, the way we organize our filing cabinet. Those are small projects, ones that affect mostly ourselves, they have a lot of our own personality in them, and that is fine. But the bigger projects we take on, for our family, or for our community – those we want to survive. Those are the really important projects, and those are the ones we need to try to pull our own personality out of.