What does that mean, to give the gift of legacy? Well, let’s start with this question. What is a legacy?
A legacy is something passed down from one person to another. Often, legacy is referred to as monetary sum or object(s) left from a family member to another. But legacy isn’t always money or objects. In my opinion, some of the best legacies can never be held in your hands. They’re instead, held in your heart.
Let me give you a personal example –
My mom passed when I was in 9th grade. She had a cancer diagnosis and was with us for about six months after it was detected. When she passed, the legacy she left me that I most appreciate has nothing to do with money or objects, her legacy is in the way she lived and the values she held. One of those legacies is the gift of hospitality and blessing others – whether it be through food, through teaching, or through support, she demonstrated what it’s like to serve others so well.
Her hospitality looked like spending time in the kitchen as she prepared dinner for our family or setting out food on the dining room table for a whomever was coming over that evening or weekend. It wasn’t fancy, but it was so enjoyable I remember many gatherings where she let me have the job of arranging and decorating the table or making an appetizer or side for the meal. I saw what a blessing it was for her to be able to provide opportunity for others to connect around a table and share a meal and that’s something I’ve tried to put my own spin on as an adult. While I may not be the best cook, I can still find ways to bless others through food, conversation, and showing up.
I also got to see my mom show hospitality through her passion for teaching whether it was in a formal classroom, tutoring on the side, or just sharing her knowledge with my brother and I through visits to historical places, books or conversations. She was an incredible educator and that’s where I got my love of learning and passion for teaching others. It’s also where I developed my love of history and visiting places as not necessarily a place for just entertainment, but to learn.
Her legacy of hospitality also looked like her finding ways to support others and provide a space for belonging. I saw this through her opening our home to others as a place to stay, as a place to eat, or just as a safe haven from the day to day. “The Farm” was well known among family and friends as the place where people gathered and enjoyed life. To look back and realize I was able to grow up in such a place is so special and something I hope to be able to provide even more of in my own home in the future.
My mom’s biggest legacy to me wasn’t a thing I can hold, it’s the way she lived. To show hospitality and to provide people with a space to be themselves, to learn, to eat, to stay, and to grow.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t physical things that can be shown for her legacy however. That’s where this “gift” of legacy comes in. You can still give a physical gift as a nod or reminder to the actual legacy you want to leave with others this holiday season.
Sow what does this look like?
My mom was a wonderful cook. I wish I cooked like her but I am still working on it (I recently used confectioners sugar instead of flour in a gravy…) Something she did leave behind was her recipe cards, written by hand, in this little box we always had in the kitchen on the desk. I don’t think she intentionally wrote out recipes so she could leave them as a legacy, it’s just what physically was left for me as a reminder of the things she loved in life. This recipe box is something I now have at my home and one of the most treasured item I have from her. It not only has her recipe cards, but also recipe cards from both of my grandmothers, again in their handwriting. To me, having something I can hold as a reminder to share my table with others is so special.
Another legacy I have in physical form is an autobiography my great uncle wrote. It is a few hundred pages, and he self published it titled “The Ride of a Lifetime”. He published it in his 80s and we had a “book launch party” with friends and family to celebrate it being published. It contains photos and stories and backgrounds on everyone in the family as well as information on our family tree dating back to the Revolutionary War. Legitimately, this man did so much research (with assistance from others) to be able to share knowledge with the family about our roots. I’ve read this entire book through on two occasions (I’m telling you, this is a massive book) and I learn so much from the stories and the information he chose to include. I am so thankful that it’s all just down on paper. My family’s history just right there to be held.
Something else I own and treasure is my grandmother’s bible she gave to me before she passed. It has bookmarks and notes in it in her handwriting. While I don’t know what all of it means as I think they are more reminders for herself, I love this bible and what it meant to her. She would often have it on this little wooden magazine rack coffee table next to her burgundy recliner and I can picture her reading it. Now when I read from it, I feel a special bond with her during that time.
I share these examples to illustrate that legacy is a passing of values, traditions, and beliefs but while I believe a true legacy isn’t something that can be held, you can give reminders of that legacy in physical form.
So what’s the legacy you want to leave after you’re no longer here on earth? May it’s a passion for connection, maybe a love of learning and wisdom, maybe a love of travel and new experiences, or maybe it’s about being creative and a passion for art. Whatever it is, I’m sure there’s a physical way to share that with others. Below are a few ways that came to mind for me to give the gift of legacy to others, but this is an incredibly small list, as I know the options are truly endless when it comes to giving a gift of legacy.
If you want to pass down the value of connecting around a table…
- Write out your favorite recipes on real recipe cards and date them. Share your favorites with family members. These make a great stocking stuffer!
- Combine all of your favorite recipes into one book from you or from your family to give to others. I’ve seen families do this as well as communities and I adore this idea.
- Write down specific family recipes and when those were served, as a way to honor the traditions of those meals. So now it’s not just about the recipe, but about the story behind when and how it’s served and why. This is the one I have that I’ve copied favorite friend and family recipes into.
- Invite others to dinner in your home (or take them out if you’re not a great cook) and just spend time together around the table.
- Literally gift a dining room or kitchen table to someone else. (This one likely a much larger investment, but my dining room table in my home was the one I grew up eating at as a kid. My dad gave it to me when I moved into my home. It’s wonderful to make new memories at a table with already so much history and love.)
- Give a set of dishes, a charcuterie board, or plates or mugs. Gatherings and connections don’t always have to just be about food. Some great conversations happen over a favorite beverage.
- Have a custom sign done with a saying or recipe to have hung in the kitchen for someone else. I’ve seen friends with framed recipes from great grandparents hanging in their kitchen for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to share the love of learning and knowledge…
- Give books as gifts. My mom used to give each kid in the family a little Christmas bag of books for their age at Christmas. Let me tell you, I would go nuts over this bag and would read through all of them before Christmas vacation was over. Twenty something years later and nothing has changed.
- Find your favorite quotes or short stories and type them up to give to someone. Or share your best advice.
- Make it a regular trip to get a book or go to a learning event. Something else my parents did was create a tradition of going to Borders or Barnes & Noble on some Friday nights as a kid. We’d get to pick out a book after our Friday pizza dinners and I always looked forward to it.
- Pick out books by season for kiddos in your life and give them during those seasons. The parents can display them (or you can if they are your own kiddos) during that season and read them regularly during that time. We always had a bookshelf of Christmas books that came out only during the holidays we would devour. Getting to read them in a specific season made it something that we looked forward to even more.
- Find an opportunity to learn together, or give the gift of an opportunity. This could be to a lecture, to a summit, attending a reading by an author, or a topic focused retreat. There’s truly so many ways to attend something virtually or in person to learn from someone else.
If you want to pass down a love of travel and new experiences…
- Buy that person a physical map. No, really. My dad always used to have us travel by map, so I truly do appreciate a good atlas when I”m traveling in places I know I won’t have cell service.
- Find a nice piece of luggage (I recommend the carry on from Away or the black hole bag from Patagonia ) and or travel cubes for their trips. Knowing you have reliable pieces for travel is a must when traveling frequently.
- Gift an airbnb or hotel or flight giftcard that can be used on any future trip. If you want to take it up a notch, make a wishlist of Airbnb places you know they’d like so it makes narrowing down where to go even easier. Even better, check out this company that plans trips for you and even has an opportunity for surprise trips.
- Book a trip with that person and have both quality time and a great experience. Do the legwork and just bring them along for the ride.
- Offer to purchase an experience for them on their next trip like a boat ride, or horseback riding, or a specific sightseeing tour. I’ve seen this done a lot for honeymoons and love the idea.
- Give a gift where they can record trips like states or National Parks that have been visited like these here. Its a visual way to see where you’ve been and where you’d like to go.
- Make them an itinerary for a day or weekend trip with places they’d like. This will take some intentionality, but could be a really special thing to receive as a gift.
- Give a guidebook to a place they’ve been talking about going. I love the Wildsam Field Guides that are found on Amazon and in some stores.
- Give a print or photograph of a place they’ve been or even of one of their own photos.
- Give the gift of a National Park Pass. For $80 for a year, you get into any national park as well as various state parks or monuments for no additional charge.
If you want to pass down a passion for creativity and art…
- Buy a annual or regular membership for a museum, gardens, or an exhibition that you can attend together or they can attend on their own
- Give a book, journal, easel, sketchpad, paint, etc. Whatever medium they use to draft their work, give them something related to that. If they’re a writer and write by hand to start, give them a blank notebook. If they are newly learning how to do pottery, maybe get a book or lesson on that skill. If they’re looking into gardening, get them gardening tools or a book on native plants.
- Give actual art. Maybe it’s a print, poem, a photograph, or some other creative piece. Include a note as to why this was meaningful to you and you wanted to gift it.
- Buy lessons or provide a space for that person to practice their art. If they draw, or create content or write, and can do it not at their own home or studio, book a place on Airbnb in their ideal environment to continue that creative flow or buy a pass to a co-working space if they are more in the digital design world and want to meet other creators.
If you want to pass down memories of life together through stories or pictures…
- Make a photo album of favorite memories on something like Chatbooks is an excellent option. I love their month books but also their stand alone albums to look back at special moments or occasions.
- Make a scrapbook adding your notes and reflections on those photos. Include your own comments on the favorite or funniest moments.
- Create a Storyworth book where you can have someone special asked a variety of chosen questions that are then replied to and compiled and bound (I’ve personally never done this but have always toyed with the idea of having my Dad do this because I always find his growing up years to be ones I’d like to know more about. So Dad, if you’re reading this, you in 😛 ?)
- Record a video after asking someone a set of questions about their memories or life. I did this for my grandma when she was in hospice and we were visiting. She still had energy and was talking to us about growing up and her marriage and it’s such a unique opportunity for me to keep this video and still be able to hear from her directly the advice she wanted to share.
There are truly so many ways you can give the gift of legacy. What’s most important though, is you recognize that it’s not as much about the physical thing provided as it is being intentional about the legacy you want to share. And if you’re not sure what the legacy is you’re leaving, ask someone else. Ask them what your legacy has already been in their life, and share something within that focus.