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“Legacy is not what's left tomorrow when you're gone. It's what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you're here that then happens to live on.”Rasheed Ogunlaru (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

“Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you’re gone. It’s what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you’re here that then happens to live on.”
Rasheed Ogunlaru (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

Earlier in the week, I pulled this message from a fortune cookie: “You will become a great philanthropist in your later years. ”

Since those years are fast approaching, I felt encouraged when my friend Diane invited me to a conference sponsored by Women in Philanthropy and Leadership. Time I read her invitation and saw the word “philanthropy,” I knew I was supposed to attend. After all, I listen to my cookies.

I figured the conference’s significance had something to do with my career and my writing. In a roundabout way, it did.  

Presenters spoke about changing the way we talk and think about ourselves as women, as well as embracing our talents.

Inspirational speaker Donna Tyson told her story of letting go of it all, her journey from a comfortable life with a lake view to selling and giving away everything she owned so she could serve in Haiti.

“I’m sure of one thing,” I said to my friend. “I’m not going to Haiti. At least, I don’t think I am.”

I made sure God knew I was joking. I know how he can be. Never say never.

By afternoon, I hung on every word from Mercedes Ramirez Johnson who survived a plane crash that killed her parents and 158 other passengers. I was touched, but not transformed.

I wondered if I’d overestimated the significance of the conference. I found myself almost hoping Haiti was my answer since I didn’t want to go home without one.

When the final keynote began her story, the likelihood diminished that I was going to Haiti or going home without some direction.

Allison Black Cornelius, Principal Consultant for training leaders at her company Blackfish Strategies, shared about being sexually abused at age seven by her male Sunday school teacher. Some 20 years later, she testified against him after a strange series of events (she said could only be arranged by God) brought them face-to-face in a courtroom. Her abuser was sentenced to prison and Allison’s life was forever changed a second time around. She now works tirelessly to keep kids safe from sexual predators.

At the end of her talk, a woman from the audience asked, “Is there a way to help my mom? She was sexually abused and can’t seem to get passed it?”

In the last five minutes of the conference, I heard what I came to hear.

“Yes,” said Allison, “and so far, it’s worked with every woman. I tell them, ‘We’re all living a legacy.’ Then I ask, ‘Are you living yours or his (the abuser)?’”

How about you? Are you living your legacy or someone else’s from your past?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – God, help me trade in the legacy I thought I deserved at age 12 for the one you knew I deserved all along.

On the side: I never thought to call an abuser’s life a legacy, but then I looked up the word. One of legacy’s synonyms is hangover, and hangover’s synonyms are after-effect and leftover. These expose the negative side of a legacy.

Read Allison Black Cornelius’ bio from her site

Click here for more artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts.

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