On My way back from Jacksonville, I sat next to a white-haired lady of informally regal presence. Her name is Billie.
Now a retired minister, Billie spent most of her adult life working with drug-trapped youths around the world. She was amongst the founding pillars of David Wilkerson's ministries and a founding counselor in the Teen Challenge program. She worked closely with Nicky Cruz, of The Cross and the Switchblade fame, to develp effective inner-city rehab programs. After doing so in Los Angeles, Billie and her husband set up a drug rehabilitiation program in Maui that was considered a shining example of treating the person, not the problem. In her almost 45 years of changing lives, Billie traveled to 34 countries and helped thousands of people, almost always one at a time.
And yet as We spoke, in that suddenly-familiar, oddly-intimate way travelers do, Billie wondered about her legacy. Now that her grandchildren were adults, she was turning her eyes to the future she wouldn't see and pondering what role she would have in it.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever wondered what your legacy will be? In the cliched words of the "tombstone exercise": What would you like your tombstone to say about you?
Coming so close on the heels of My dad's death, Billie's thoughts resonated with My own. In her case, I felt her legacy was obvious as her long and successful record of ministering to young people and adults on four continents was clearly a worthy and well-spent life's work. And yet, she was almost despondent about her role as mother, feeling that she had short-changed her children for the ministry. As evidence, she pointed out that she was not really "close" to any of them, for they had lives scattered around the U.S.
From My limited experience, I told her that, as parents, We always feel We could have done more for Our children. It simply comes from Our caring nature and never seems satisfied. I turned her "evidence" around and noted that the fact that her children had established solid lives, not only for themselves but for their children as well (We had discussed them earlier), was proof she had done what a parent should do: Prepare their children to stand on their own. The idea seemed to catch her by surprise, then she nodded in agreement.
Billie told Me that when she was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, her oldest son, the "most distant" of her children, almost moved in with her, commuting by plane from Jacksonville, Florida to Erie, Pennsylvania every week to spend 2-3 days at her side. Her other children visited frequently, but it was this child, the one who clashed most often with his mother who became the closest during the battle. She told Me that back then she thought it was because he was afraid she would die; now she saw that it was because he never was "distant," only different in the way he showed his love.
Billie beat her cancer and her children have continued their lives, as has she. In a small but significant way, I helped her see her legacy more clearly, that it is brighter and larger than she can imagine and that without a doubt, it will last for a long time.
What will be My legacy? Billie inspired Me to return to The Pledge to the World and make it a priority. I will try to do more.
What will be Your legacy? You already have one, but is it what you truly want it to be?
What will be Our legacy? Do enough of Us care to make it what We want rather than what We allow?
The Jenius Has Spoken.