A good legacy is built through doing the most good with what you have

The people who had the most influence on my life are unknown to most of the world. They will never appear on the cover of Time magazine or make national news. Yet they were consistent, authentic and obedient in the task before them, and I took notice.  

Not many people knew Mildred Madden. Every Sunday morning growing up, I would see Mrs. Madden sitting in the front pew at church, worshipping and willing to serve wherever needed.

She taught me how to sew when I was a little girl and gave me some of her sewing materials so I could practice. More importantly, she taught me faithfulness.

I remember the joy she had despite difficult parts of her testimony. I remember the knowledge she had of the Bible and her willingness to share this with others. I remember her words of encouragement and the card she sent me when I finished my final Awana book.

She passed away earlier this week and left an impact on more people than she would ever realize. I will never forget Mrs. Madden, and her legacy made a lasting imprint on my life..

When I think of leaving a legacy of significance, my pastor comes to mind. My pastor, Mitch Brooks, and his wife spent over 55 years in ministry and 31 years pastoring Second Baptist Church in Belton, South Carolina, before retiring earlier this year. 

Emily Wood

As he plans for the future and looks forward to the coming Kingdom of Christ, he alluded to 2 Timothy 4:7 where Paul speaks of finishing the race and keeping the faith. He said he wants to be remembered as a man of God. 

“You just do every day what God has called you to do. I want to be genuine. I want to be the real thing. … The legacy I want to leave is one of absolute faithfulness to the Lord,” he said. 

My pastor’s legacy will not end with his retirement, as he says he will never quit fulfilling his calling. He said he hopes his legacy is one of “being true, being dependable and trustworthy, being consistent.”

For him, legacy was forged in consistent integrity and faithfully seeking God “day by day.” The steadfastness and effectiveness of his ministry will no doubt have implications for generations to come. 

Though his congregation was never massive, the impact he made on the hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives in my hometown is unquantifiable. His legacy’s impact on my life is certain.

Legacy is made in the consistency of everyday life. If you are breathing, your life is significant. The question is not if you leave a legacy but what kind of legacy you leave.

The theory of the butterfly effect was established by Edward Lorenz in 1963 and proven in the 1990s by physicists. The theory states that a butterfly could flap its wings and move air molecules that are eventually able to influence weather patterns across the globe.

In his book, “The Butterfly Effect,” Andy Andrews tells the story of how much a single life’s influence matters and can have a ripple effect for generations.

Andrews shared the story of a slave named George Washington Carver, whose impact eventually touched Norman Borlaug’s life, 100 years later.Borlaug is credited with discovering a way to hybridize wheat and corn, which increased the world’s food supply and saved the lives of roughly two billion people from famine. He later won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.  

Legacy works like the butterfly effect. Your investment in someone’s life might reap rewards generations down but may never be evident in your lifetime.

A good legacy is built through stewarding your life well, being obedient in today’s task and doing the most good with what you have.

Hebrews 11 lists the legacy of some of the heroes of our faith, who did incredible things for the Kingdom. At the time, most of them were very ordinary people who were obedient in extraordinary things. The implications of their actions still impact us in 21st century America.

Legacy is building the foundation, knowing that the work is not yet complete. It is made by learning from yesterday and seizing the opportunity of today, while looking toward what is to come.

Paul said he lived his life, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (pressing) on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Legacy is so much more than what you leave behind; it is what you are running toward.

 “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” C.S. Lewis said.

This message rings true just as much for the college senior as it does for the senior adult. The time to stay the course and live life to the fullest is now because today is a vapor and tomorrow is never promised.

What we do matters in both the present and the future, so by all means, live life with your eyes facing onward because legacies are not made by living in the past. And as Winston Churchill said often, “Let us go forward together.”

Emily Wood is the Editor-in-Chief. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyRWood17


  • Strickland Carol

    I enjoyed reading this and what a great paper. You are very talented and smart I wish you the best in the future.

  • Shirley Ellison Bumpus

    Thank you, Emily. You are a special young woman with such special insight. May God use you in a mighty way!

  • Beautiful word I enjoyed reading it I love you so much..

  • Beautiful words from a wonderful young woman!!

  • Adrian M Deanhardt

    Hi Emily, I am Mildred Maddens daughter. I think we met at Second Baptist once when I brought Mom back to church for a visit. She really missed her church and church family when she moved to Greenwood to be nearer me. I remember Mom telling me about you and your Mom going to Moms and her teaching you some sewing skills. She loved people. She was a giver and always willing to help others. More than that she loved the Lord and was always willing to share Him with others. You pegged it, she did leave a legacy and we will probably never realize the extent it reached. God bless you.

  • Enjoy reading your writing, it is always very thought provoking. Appreciate you honoring Mrs. Madden and Pastor Brooks in this article. We tend to take it for granted that we’ve had godly people influencing our lives. Not everyone can say that. We are very blessed.

  • What inspiring words for us all! God bless you in the next chapter of your life! Thank you for being such a dear and lifelong friend to Leah!

  • Emily I love your writings. This one is especially dear because I too love Mildred and learning so much from her myself the years we served together in ministry. And I love our pastor Mitch and his sweet wife Linda and 30 years of worshipping and growing at Second Baptist. I’m 40+ years older than you and the same people shaped me also! Wonderful words of wisdom!!

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