The inheritance

There are no stone buildings bearing my name. No museums attribute their success, in part, to my generous contributions. No house awaits me in the South of France for holidays, and no bank vault brims with family jewels, important papers and gold. I do not dodge the paparazzi when I’m leaving my home, and I pass no billboard of myself on my way to work. I do not have a driver.

When I finally breathe my last breath on this earth, I will not be leaving my four children multiple estates brimming with antiques. No one will have to ask, “Do you want the house in the mountains? Or would you prefer the flat in Manhattan?” No one will fight over my wardrobe. There will be no yacht to toy with, no private jet to sell. There will be no body of work so great that it will ensure name recognition past a generation. But that is of no matter to me.

The inheritance I wish to bestow is simple. It’s just a few gifts that I hope my family will cherish long after I’m gone.

So, to you, my dear children, I (hopefully) bequeath the following:

1. A sense of community. You are not an island. You live among people on purpose—to make a difference. It may be as simple as bringing a meal to a grieving friend or as extraordinary as building houses for those who have none. You have been given much. Give to others.

2. A healthy sense of humor. Laugh at yourself. The most amiable people are those who don’t take themselves too seriously. Laugh with others. Always laugh at the jokes of children, even when they make no sense. I always laughed at yours.

3. Confidence. You are much smarter than you realize. Say what you mean. Follow through with what you say. Be a leader. Be a good example.

4. A respect for others. Hold the door open. Look people in the eyes when speaking. Honor authority. Continue to say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Ma’am” to your elders, even into adulthood. Accept those who make different choices from yours. That’s why Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors.

5. A strong work ethic. Pursue excellence in everything you do. Try your hardest. You will make mistakes, because you’re human. But never let it be said that you were lazy. Or complacent. Never. If so, I will roll over.

6. Good memories. Your father and I took you everywhere we went. To restaurants, to the beach, to your grandparents’, to Disney World. Over and over and over again. We went to your baseball games and your dance recitals. We snuggled with you early in the morning when you had “crazy hair,” and we sang lullabies at bedtime. Remember only the good times. And there were many good times. I tried to take enough pictures to prove it, but I’ve never printed them out.

5. Faith. Know that you are here for a purpose. Know that you are loved beyond measure. Know that you matter. Feel small when you behold the clouds from an airplane window. Be still when you watch a sunrise. Slow down and listen in the silent moments. It is only in these moments that you will get a glimpse of the big picture. And there is a big picture—much bigger than the trust fund that you are not receiving.