We Are All the Stuff of Legends
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts …”
Some months back, I opined on the topic of leaving behind a legacy. Contrary to the often-offered advice “dance like nobody’s watching,” my truncated position was to behave like everyone is. One never knows the number and makeup of the onlookers or the performance’s impact until the scene is concluded.
Last week, some affirmation of my thinking unexpectedly presented itself when I was introduced to a new song called “Legacy.” The lyrics and music were written by 17-year-old singer-songwriter Kellie-Anne Poirier. Poirier drew inspiration from her interactions with family friend John Py as he deals with life with ALS.
The result is a stirring ballad of survival, perseverance, and triumph in the face of one of life’s most daunting tribulations. The accompanying music video portrays a man stricken with ALS, as he and his family rally to the challenge. It has received more than 20,000 views in 10 months and has enjoyed positive press from Music Existence, The Music.reviews, and Hollywood Digest.
“John is just a normal guy,” Poirier said in an interview with the ALS Association. During a separate Q&A with Talent In Borders, Poirier stated, “I would like more people to understand the illness and all that it entails, and if this music video and song can do that, then my goal will have been achieved.”
It’s the case of an average Joe unknowingly being the impetus for creative expression that moves tens of thousands of people. Shakespeare himself would be impressed. According to an article by Skope, it’s “a once-in-a-lifetime partnership, a legacy like no other.”
After taking in the song, the book “Tuesdays with Morrie“ by Mitch Albom came to mind. Morrie Schwartz was Albom’s former college professor. After years of no contact, Albom learned that Schwartz was dying from ALS. The book chronicled their post-reunion series of visits, until Schwartz’s death. During their get-togethers, the pair would discuss, in teacher-student fashion, various topics important to life and living.
Memorable among the wisdom imparted were multiple lessons, several of which I will attempt to combine. Relationships survive us. Whatever love — or lack thereof — we bring to the table lives on. Prioritize our pursuits with that in mind, living life as if it’s our last day.
The book was published after Schwartz’s passing. It ultimately sold more than 14 million copies and was later made into a movie. Schwartz’s sagacious nuggets unwittingly created a legacy benefitting countless people.
Although separated by two generations, the respective tales of Py and Schwartz have similarities. The most obvious are ALS and their starring roles, performed to an audience of one, which morphed into cameo parts in front of a massive throng. Both Poirier and Albom merely gave the script handed to them the best rendering possible.
Paul Tripp wrote that “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things in the lives of others.” Helen Keller craved interaction. James Meredith desired an education. Anne Frank wanted to write a diary. César Chávez sought fair labor conditions. Harriet Tubman objected to humans owning other humans. Jack Twyman endeavored to aid a severely damaged human in need. Each had rather ordinary goals, but left extraordinary imprints.
The Bible teems with such sagas. Improbable characters such as a tax collector and a prostitute left indelible marks. In his book, “Great Characters of the Bible,” Alan Stringfellow documents 52 such folks whose résumés would hardly predict multi-millennium legacies.
None of the aforementioned people were chasing notoriety or influence. Their impact was simply the consequence of them leading their lives, as best as possible, while attentive and appreciative spectators looked on. Guided by their conscience, their example leads others.
People watch, and people talk, likely more than we imagine. What they witness firsthand may be imparted to others secondhand. And their observation, after distillation, may fractionally become an element in their own stage show, put on in front of a unique social network. While the ripple effect of my behavior lacks the explosive power of a song or a bestselling book, it still is modestly tangible. It’s up to me to make it potentially additive.
ALS, in thespian terms, could rightfully be characterized as an over-budget, underperforming, beyond-belief tragedy. Yet, despite that dismal trailer, it’s a production that will capture some sort of viewership.
Extraordinary humanity can be contagious. It doesn’t require a trumpet or bombast to announce it. It just needs one person, then another borrowing from the first, then multiple folks following suit, to make a positive difference. We all can be in that plot.
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