Several months ago during an interview for a campus event planning committee, I was asked the question, “What kind of legacy do you want to leave at UMHB?” Conveniently, I had pondered that very thing earlier in the day and had a ready answer.
At the time, I wanted my legacy to be that students would remember me as kind, servant-hearted, and loving the Lord and others. I hoped part of my legacy would include other students continuing on a ministry in which I was involved. But if I was being honest, mostly I just hoped that I would leave a legacy.
I didn’t want to be forgotten. Or what I'd done to go to waste. Isn’t that what legacies are about? The unique something you’ll leave behind? Or what you’ll be remembered for?
A few weeks ago, as I walked through the apartments and past the Student Union Building on the way to class, with students milling about all around me, a thought hit me.
I didn’t know a single one of the dozens of students I’d passed.
And I was okay with that.
There was a time when I couldn't cross campus without stopping every few yards to greet someone, but waves of freshmen had arrived much faster than my slowing pace of meeting people. It used to be easy to think I would leave a legacy when so many people knew me. Yet in that moment walking to class I became starkly aware that I knew a much smaller fraction of the student population than before, which meant the chances of leaving a lasting legacy were much slimmer. Surprisingly, this didn't bother me, and I realized it was because that "legacy" and being remembered weren't so important to me anymore.
Over the past few weeks I’ve come to terms with the reality that I will walk across the stage in a few days, and in a year or two only a handful of students will recognize my name. In five years no students will. In a dozen years, a single staff member may be the only one on campus who remembers who I am and what I stood for during college.
But that's okay. Maybe going to college and participating in organizations and planning activities isn’t about how I will impact things. Maybe it isn’t about being remembered. Maybe it isn’t about me leaving a legacy at all.
I am an individual, and as an individual student I will be forgotten. Yet as an individual student, I have enjoyed and contributed to ministries and activities and traditions – things that have been for decades (centuries, even!) and that will probably continue for decades. I have been a drop in the stream that keeps the water wheel turning. I have loved my time with those who have been on the water wheel at the same time as I have, and we have made great impact and left powerful personal legacies in each other’s lives. I have been discipled by students who have been discipled by students who have been discipled by students - and so it goes back for decades. And I have discipled students. In my own small yet significant way, I have added my legacy to one that is much grander than my own.
It is unrealistic to think I will be remembered by name at an ever-changing institution like Mary Hardin-Baylor, where the student body grows and shifts by the semester. But that’s okay. I am content, for I have taken part in a legacy that is much bigger.
A culture of kindness. An atmosphere that cultivates community. Organizations that develop leaders with integrity. Staff who both teach and mentor. Ministries that glorify Christ as King. This is the legacy of UMHB.
I am content, and I have no regrets. For I have had the privilege of participating all-out in this: this legacy that lives at UMHB.
Special thanks to the Cru for teaching me so much over the past few years – and for giving me an example on a small scale of what it’s like to find contentment in something (whether that be college or Kingdom) bigger than me.