The flight was unusually turbulent, with the seatbelt sign flashing frequently and the pilot urging everyone to stay seated. Due, perhaps, to having watched too many documentaries on air crash investigations, I imagined the plane’s wings being ripped off from all the shaking, bringing imminent death.
I began to wonder: Who would miss me? Would my life have meant anything to anyone? What would my legacy be?
I suspect that such questions weigh heavily on many minds from time to time. Is it our hope that when our mortal lives end, we have left footprints in the memories of at least some? Or does it come from pride—that we want to believe our lives have made some difference?
Looking around, we see signs of future generations inheriting an increasingly beleaguered world.
The BBC reported recently that, for the first time in history, the generation after ours is not necessarily going to be better off in economic terms. Many young adults, in countries as diverse as Japan, Hong Kong, the USA and the UK, face the prospect of never owning their own homes. Globally, the effects of climate change are apparent and biodiversity is under threat.
Despite the enormity of the problems, each of us can, in our own small way, make a difference to future generations. For a start, my household tries to reduce our waste by separating paper, glass and plastic discarded items for recycling.
We can also think about our consumption patterns and their impact on the environment. Do we consider whether we really need that new shirt or pair of shoes, or that punnet of fruit? Are we aware that a lorry-load of clothing is incinerated or used as landfill every second? The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a third of food produced—a whopping $1 trillion worth (and counting)—is wasted and discarded, while a billion people go to bed hungry each night.
The best legacy we can leave is a greener world with cleaner air in which future generations can see animals in their natural habitat, rather than just in zoos or books. We and past generations have enjoyed blue skies and beautiful sunsets. Should not future generations enjoy these too?
Each generation must exercise responsible stewardship of God’s creation and world, and teach the next to do the same. Only then can we leave a positive, lasting legacy.
Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, given to him in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
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