His name was Dusty. Even back then, when my third grade son was just testing his wings in theater and I was a young single mom, Dusty was an old retired sailor — hard of hearing, stiff and gnarled, one of The Greatest Generation — giving himself, his strength, his time, and his love to the dreams of his daughter, his son-in-law, and his grandkids. I used to watch how hard he worked lifting and hauling, building sets and stages, putting them up only to have to take them down at the end of the run — uncomplaining, working harder than parents half his age to perform whatever tasks needed doing, however dirty or tiring. He always took time to help anyone who needed it.
I saw his kindness. Everyone did. We were grateful, but we took him for granted.
There was a moment — I don’t remember exactly when, but the moment is clear — when I realized watching Dusty’s kindness had changed me. That was the moment I understood that his way of doing and giving was better than my way of doing my job and giving when I felt I had the time.
I finally knew that every single one of us leaves a mark on the world, and that mark continues to grow after we’re gone, like ripples spreading across an endless pond. It doesn’t mean we’re famous. In fact, after everyone who knows us is dead, we’ll probably be forgotten. And that’s okay. Because your legacy isn’t about your name or your fame. It isn’t about how much money you amass or how much stuff you acquire. It’s about how your life — the way you treat other people or animals or the planet we live on — affects the way someone else does those things in their own life. And how those they affect change. And how those they affect change.
Dusty’s gone now, but I don’t take him for granted anymore. My gratitude goes back to him and all those before him who helped shape the legacy I am now part of. My kindness goes forward to help others become part of that legacy. Together, unknown but unlimited, we will make the world a better place.