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Leaving a Legacy

The Law of Iroquois says, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations”.

If you want to leave a legacy for your children, you should do the same. However, following such wise advice is always easier said than done.

There is another saying that I learned many years ago, “If only age had youth and youth had age”.

Perhaps this sums up the challenge – to look forward we also need to look back to gain the wisdom from those older than us and then match it with our youth. One of the ten commandments is, “to honour your mother and father”. Notice it doesn’t say that our parents were perfect, nor does it say you should obey their every word, but that you must honour them!

We all know that our own dads were imperfect but to leave a legacy for your children to the seventh generation we must look past their imperfections and give credit where credit is due. We must learn from their mistakes and avoid repeating them.

This is harder for some than others, but it is the beginning point of the legacy.

Sometimes it involves forgiveness for the past. Sometimes it involves giving up our own pride. Either way, it can be a huge challenge but it is the first step in leaving a legacy. If we don’t understand the past, we won’t understand the future.

To follow the injunction of the Iroquois, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations”, requires us to look to the decisions of the past. Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

It is the humility to look back that gives us the humility to consider the past decisions, even of our grandfathers and great grandfathers, look at the consequences of those decisions, and then project our decisions into the future for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

That is why family stories and our family history are so important – it gives us a picture of the past, the present and the future.

Let me share some of my past and my present to help you understand this process.

On my mother’s side I spent considerable time with my grandfather and grandmother when I was young. We lived with them in Scotland for a time. This was a good experience and gave me a sense of history.

I remember that my grandfather smoked a pipe and read the paper. He was gruff, a man of few words, and yet he had the time to put me on his knee for a family photograph when I was 3 years old.

For this I am thankful. It is a connection that is indisputable, both in memory and in print and also helps me when I consider my decisions with my children in the light of the law of the Iroquois.

My grandfather had fought in World War I and a number of his brothers were killed in action and did not come home. It is enough to make any man short of words and gruff with young children, but it behoves me to be different.

You don’t have to go to war to become gruff and short of words. The vicissitudes of life can do that to anyone. The challenge for me, is to make sure that as I get older I do not get more preoccupied with my ‘pipe’ and my paper, becoming gruff and a man of few words for my children and my grandchildren’s sakes. As I said earlier, this is easier said than done.

Let me bring you up to the present. On 2 June my wife and I attended the Grandparent Conference, titled ‘Leaving a Living Legacy’, organised by Ian Barnett. I have long believed that grandfathers are a key to helping the current crop of fathers become good fathers, hence the need to encourage grandfathers.

Ian Barnett, in this respect, is doing something in my home town of Wollongong that is wonderful and has national and international ramifications. Building up and encouraging grandparents will help people better make decisions and fulfil a blessing, not a curse, on our children for the next seven generations. Thank God for Iroquois’ wisdom.

Interestingly, just the act of going to such a conference made me become a better grandfather to some of my grandchildren. Typically, with my grandchildren, I have the tendency to become a man of few words (not necessarily gruff) but more interested in my pipe (figuratively speaking) and my newspaper.

This is also figurative as it symbolises my preoccupation with current affairs and my commitment to try to change the world.

Arguably, this is a good commitment, but you can still damage the seventh generation of your own grandchildren by not being present in the moment except for photos.

How did I become a better grandfather you ask? Well, while visiting my son’s home I found myself on the lounge talking to my son, with my ten year old twin granddaughters on either side of me, cuddling up. Even my son and daughter-in-law noticed this new-found affection and commented on it.

It seemed like it was the first time and perhaps it was, I won’t argue the point, suffice to say it happened straight after I had made a decision to learn to be a better grandfather after attending the Grandparent Conference and receiving input from others to help me become a better grandfather.  What a coincidence! Funny that!

I can assure you that I wasn’t ‘smoking my pipe’ or ‘reading my paper’ but it is, ‘the small things that matter’. Benefitting the seventh generation starts with remembering the past and being thankful, then not repeating the same mistakes but instead learning from them.

It might be as simple as your attention and a heartfelt hug, but you could make a decision that will benefit and affect seven generations.

Lovework

Put down your pipe and paper and give attention to your children and grandchildren because we are talking about benefitting seven generations as the Iroquois were wont to say.

Yours for Seven Generations

Warwick Marsh

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