Legacy. What does that word mean to you?

Legacy. What does that word mean to you?

The dictionary definition especially suitable for this instance is, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”

With this in mind, what kind of legacy are we passing down to the next generation? This may be perhaps one of the most important questions there is. It encompasses every aspect of our lives; it could be regarding the political agenda, the national debt, the state of our natural resources, and so much more.

I was a co-instructor this past weekend in a certification course for interpretation. Many of you may ask, what is interpretation? It is not sign language, or a foreign language, it is revealing the natural or cultural world for a visitor.

If you’ve ever been to a historic site, nature center, national park, or other such resource and had one of the employees or volunteers guide you, share the significance of the site and the message of the agency with you, help it all make better sense … then you have been with an interpreter.

Hopefully, they did such a good job that your visit was enhanced and your experience had greater meaning. Maybe you went home and did some research on the area, or searched the internet and read more about the subject. Perhaps you even began to volunteer there, or at a similar place because of this visit; or, made a donation to the cause. At that point, the interpreter’s goal was met. Their interaction with you led to your stewardship of the resource.

I’m reminded of the beautiful quote by Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” You may have heard this quote before and wondered where it came from. Baba Dioum is an environmentalist. He said this quote in 1968 during a speech in New Delhi, India, to the general assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

His words are his legacy to us. Sometimes it takes another person to teach us and lead us to this understanding, sometimes that person is our parent, sometimes that person can be ourselves.

Surely, Teddy Roosevelt was thinking about legacy when he recommended Yellowstone become the first of a National Park Service in the 1870s. Preserving these glorious lands for all of posterity to visit, witness, and experience.

I hope that you are able to take the time to visit a special place and let an interpreter bring it to life for you. If you have children, bring them with you.

If you don’t have children, share the experience with neighbors or friends. Your life will be richer for it and so will the child’s; after all, treasuring a legacy is what it’s all about.