California Forum

What kind of legacy are you creating?

Special to The Bee

I need to take a deep breath. After all the terrible things slung around during this political season, I’ve been thinking more about what we leave behind.

My daughter is in the process of taking over the farm; does that imply my work is complete? I don’t believe so. As I age, I think more and more about mortality, that I’ll leave behind a family, a business, a farm. And, as many have said, we all leave a legacy.

You cannot control your parentage, but you can choose your legacy.Rick Riordan, author

The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave. Tavis Smiley, TV host, author, activist

There’s a burden we carry as we live our lives: What do we leave behind?

Some measure personal success based on the accumulation of wealth. Others grade themselves in status and influence. I hope most of us seek to do good in our lives and strive to leave the world a better place. The struggle lies in defining “good” and “better” and for whom or what?

I challenge myself by believing that I should do more and give more. Guilt was never part of my spiritual upbringing, but shame can be an even heavier load.

We tend to frame this discussion with a veil of privilege, assuming we have control over our destinies. We begin at different points and are impacted by forces that confine and restrict.

The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children is not money or other material things, but rather a legacy of character and faith.Billy Graham, Christian evangelist

My buildings will be my legacy ... they will speak for me long after I’m gone. Julia Morgan, architect

Money matters in legacy building, but it’s not the sole indicator. I don’t believe material possessions contribute much to the wealth we leave behind. Instead, it’s what we did with our wealth. Philanthropy is not limited to those with money; giving can take many forms. A farmer can leave behind earth that’s full of life. Volunteers can leave a trail of good will sprinkled with great acts of kindness. Parents, grandparents and relatives contribute to the character that defines family. It’s not success we leave behind but rather significance.

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.Shannon Alder, author

I believe we should live consciously as if our eulogy is being written daily. Imagine being witness to our own legacy, to hear stories that define us while we are alive. How differently would we behave, to have no regrets because we are aware of the choices we make and the consequences that follow. We are writing the story of our lives each day based not on intention but on our actions; they do speak the loudest.

We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. David Brower, first director of Sierra Club

I’m acutely aware that the land I work was handed down by my father and the farmer before him and the farmer before them. Yet only when I understand the context of history does the magnitude of our farm grow: My children and hopefully another generation will inherit my work and the fingerprints I leave behind in the soil.

The story behind this piece of earth and this valley we call home gives life and meaning. The stories to come define the impact of all I do here.

Legacy is a stupid thing! I don’t want a legacy. Bill Gates, billionaire, Microsoft founder

That’s easy to say when you’re rich and famous. Yet I sense there’s another perspective at work here: not to leave material things behind like monetary inheritance. Perhaps legacy is defined by our deeds. A person’s actions will tell us all we need to know.

No legacy is so rich as honesty. William Shakespeare, playwright

I trust I will be remembered by authentic deeds, no matter my desires and hopes. In the end, living your own truth is all that matters.

David Mas Masumoto is an author and organic farmer. Contact him at