Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The passing of Michael Jackson has been called the death of a musical Messiah. It rattled and upset basically every person on earth, according to CNN. But even amidst the controversy of his life and the "sudden" and "shocking" nature of his death, one thing is for sure, his memory will live FOREVER. Literally. And the question is not how, I'm sure there are way too many people listening to the Off the Wall CD on repeat for that question to come up, but rather (not to be insensitive) WHY? What's in the making of a legend?

Most people are at least in their 20's before they even BEGIN to contemplate a legacy. But with the slew of unreasonably famous young people on the scene, it occurred to me that most of us are already behind on the process of beginning a legacy. MJ was already a big deal before he could spell big deal. I'm unsure that he was ever really chasing legacy. He probably just wanted to play his music and wear his shiny gloves. I suppose that the easiest route to a memorable life is doing what you love and letting the world adore you. So what is there to CHASE really? Fame, I suppose. People talking about you in ever living room in America. Covers of magazines, a spot on the top 5 Google searches. So you get there, then what? It's all devastatingly elusive. None of this alone immortalizes your image. Just ask Sarah Palin. :-)So then, legacy is not really about being cute, it's not even about being controversial. It's about being dedicated and purposed. Like Mike.

Some folks make legacies by investing in businesses, houses, families. Some make a name for themselves, center stage. Whatever we do, the intentionality and dedication behind it speaks volumes. What kind of legacy are we leaving? Some folks will be more remembered for being great parents and private humanitarians, than others will be for having graced the covers of every print publication there is. For some, the persistent social climbing will pay off. Some of us will be caught in the cross hairs of controversy, unable to escape the undesirable glare of wrongdoing. Fame will be forever tarnished. Our lives, in turn, fade into the background. But if we continue to do what we are called to do, legacy can survive it . Mike's did. Few will ever be as famous, but who cares. For us who seek to build a legacy out of a seemingly mundane existence and the painful grind of a 9-5, use every season of "insignificance" to walk out those things which will become your legacy, be it love, faith or the generosity shown by your humanitarian effort. Don't cop out on your legacy for a bit of fame.

So when I die, I probably won't be featured on major cable networks. Al Sharpton probably won't deliver a sermon and declare a national day of morning in my honor (I'd actually prefer that NOT happen). Russia will never erect a monument bearing my image. Perhaps my work in ministry, Summer camp coordination skills, and community organizing, will all blur together in the end, not a single thing clearly distinguishable. But you'd better believe that the fact that I lived, that I breathed air for decades, that I inhabited a human body WILL matter. Not because I'll force it, but because it will be a natural result of a drive beyond photo opps, trophys and tell-all memoirs.

So I'd like to say a brief thank you to Michael Jackson. While millions will remember and praise him as the man whose music told the story their lives, whose moonwalk made them believe that anything is possible; I thank him for showing me the difference between a life of fame and notariety, and a legacy.

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