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Column: THE GRAY LINE TOUR

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / February 26, 1998

WHAT IS YOUR LEGACY?

A recent visit to a Black History Month program at one of our local parochial schools put some ideas into my head as I drove back to the office and I would like to pass along a few of these ideas to young people, especially those headed in the wrong direction in life.

I’d love to get a roomful of these problem children in front of me, look them in the eyes, one by one, and ask them how they would like to die. It’sa simple question and one which is guaranteed to make them think.

I would say to them, how would you like to be remembered after you die? Have you left behind loved ones who care for you, who will miss you and who you touched with your accumulated wisdom, caring and love? Will you leave behind friends who will mourn your passing, while celebrating your life and its accomplishments? Will you look back on a life filled, not necessary with material gains, but with spiritual gains? Will people be proud to have known and loved you? Will you have lived a life to make your parents, your grandparents and all your ancestors proud? Over the years, many people have strugged and, yes, died to give you the chance at life you have. You simply may not realize it. It is every lovingparents dream that their children have a better, easier life than they had.

They sacrifice, share their love and wisdom, to make you a better person, a person willing to do for others, not willing to do to others.

Or, on the other hand, will you be a disappointment? Will your family members write you off as a lost cause and be ashamed of you? Will you simply have no friends to mourn your passing? Will you get caught up in crime, violence and drugs, out to get rich at any cost and uncaring about the heritage which brought you into the world? Will you die alone, unmourned and unmissed? The school program I saw depicted an elderly black slave of the old South who has a vision of the future. She sees crime, drugs, loss of spiritualbeliefs and lack of vision for a positive future. The young people gatheredaround her ask “Are we free?” The answer is, of course, no. Not with thosechains burdening you can you ever be free.

It was a powerful program and a positive, hard-hitting message, applicable to every race and religion, and it set even this reporter thinking. How do I want to be remembered? What legacy will I leavebehind? These are questions everyone should answer with honest self- examination. Do you want to pollute your body and destroy your mind withillegal chemicals? Do you want to throw away hard-won opportunities for a good education? Do you want to spit on the sacrifices made for your behalf? Do you want to bring shame to those who loved you? Do you want to die alone?

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur.

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