A legacy is something a person leaves behind when they are no longer with us…Something to be remembered by. We build our legacy throughout life by creating footsteps for future generations to follow. Ideally, each generation will improve upon what the previous generation leaves behind.
Society’s future is the young people of today. They will be the leaders of our world tomorrow, and they are learning how to navigate the future from the precedents we set in the present.
Recently, I asked my nephew, Tyler, whose footsteps he wants to follow in. Many young people choose someone famous… An athlete or a celebrity. I knew what Tyler’s answer was before he said it…”Dad’s.”
Tyler’s dad is my older brother, Mike. Mike has been a fireman for FDNY since he was twenty-one years old. He became Tyler’s dad when he was twenty-nine.
It was interesting for me to observe my brother become a father. I only knew him as a brother, and as I watched him interact with his son, I felt as if I was getting to know a whole new person.
Mike had always been a fantastic big brother. I had many, many reasons to look up to him. From a younger sister’s point of view, he had always been a wonderful role model.
But as a father, there was something different… Something exceptional being infused from Mike to his son. An osmosis of all that is good and pure. I mentioned this to my dad one day, after Mike and Tyler had come to my dad’s for an afternoon visit. Tyler was about two years old at the time (he’s nineteen now.)
When they left, I told my dad what an exceptional father I thought my brother was. While I knew he was a great person, it was very different watching him in a role I had never seen him play. My father said, “Of course your brother is an exceptional father. He’s an exceptional man.”
When I asked Tyler why he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps, he said his dad is very giving, well-rounded and humble. Trust a guy to sum it up in six words.
I couldn’t agree more, and allow me to elaborate. Mike is one of those rare people that is impossible not to like. He is the first person to help others. The “others” include family, friends and strangers. If someone needs help, he helps them. He has a huge heart.
Mike is exceptionally supportive. Regardless of the distance he needs to go, he will see things through until they are solved. I have experienced this dozens of times throughout my years of living injured. If I have a health issue or have to make a change in my lifestyle that is challenging, Mike is always a key supporter until what ever we are dealing with is solved.
I read an article recently from an author who was writing about the importance of the people we surround ourselves with throughout our life. Toward the end, she wrote something like this…” When my time on this earth is coming to a close, I don’t want the friends that kiss me me on the forehead and say, “See you in the morning.” I want the friends that will get me through the night!” Mike would get you through the night, whatever that entailed, and make you breakfast in the morning.
Tyler’s dad is a humble human being. He has been at the forefront of numerous fundraisers, and when it comes time for him to receive credit for what he has been a part of, he always directs it to other individuals.
Mike believes there is something to be said for doing the right thing, regardless if it is popular or not. He does not only talk this talk, he lives the walk.
Mike is soon to receive the Father Mychal Judge Humanitarian Award. It is a very prestigious award within the City of New York. I am guessing he will be asked to say a few words upon receiving this award, and I’m sure he will direct the credit for it towards others besides himself.
Of all Mike’s wonderful attributes, the best one is he is not a saint. You don’t have to hold him at arm’s length because he is impossible to relate to. He’s rarely in a grumpy mood, easy to make laugh, enjoys cocktails at parties and can get along with almost anybody.
“It takes a village to raise a child”, “The apple does not fall far from the tree” and “… Begins in our own backyard” are three expressions that could not be more fitting for this story. My nephew doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of a rock star, a professional athlete or a movie star. He wants to be a man like his father.
The humility, the big heart, the easy to relate to, easy to laugh, rarely in a bad mood and living the example there is something to be said for doing the right thing were all attributes of my father. They are part of who my brother is, and they are now a part of who Tyler is.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, it takes a village to raise a child and you don’t have to look beyond your own backyard for footsteps to follow in. Each generation is born into a legacy they will add to and make their own.