Sadly, many people in the community did not have the pleasure of knowing this generous gentleman. They wished they could have known him earlier to ever thank him in person.
Or does a legacy have to be something big and spectacular, like this $6 million? Or as simple as beautiful smile that brighten someone's day.
And for business professionals, what about leaving a legacy in the work place?
Nowadays, many professionals change job and/or company, at least, every two-year. How about leaving well done achievements and great team-work memory as a legacy before moving on?
In January 2012, in the midst of my career break, I was appointed unexpectedly as Executive Officer of a fundraising office (Appeal Office) in the same parish: a Jesuit parish with a large community that constitutes three Catholic churches in the North Sydney area. My main task was to raise $2.5 million! The funds were to be used to restore a heritage-listed big building (the size of ten bedsitters): a house for the priests of the Parish and a Jesuit community.
Raising funds, how? I've never been a fundraiser before, hence never raised funds.
When I thanked the chairman of the fundraising committee, whom I knew just for a short while, for giving me the opportunity to lead the Appeal Office despite the lack of experience I had, he replied: "I live long enough. I know who can do the job and who can't".
Of course, he told me the truth -- in January 2012, he was 79-year old! He used to be a CEO of his own company. His intuition about people -- who can do and who can't do the job -- has been sharpened over the years. I was privileged to be chosen to lead the project. But ... how can I do the job? Where do I start raising $2.5 million funds in a year?
Strangely, though, after I came on board officially, I didn't remember if I was thinking too much about my lack of experience and the end result -- raising $2.5 million. All I did was -- seizing my working hours with diligent and listening to my inner voice: "This is a work of heart. The key to its success is in how to touch people's hearts. Connect with them through their emotions. Treat them with respect and dignity, invite them to be part of the project and (I believe) they will contribute"
I was suggested to meet at least a dozen of people: leaders and key members of the community. "Start from them" said the then Parish Priest.
Well, I did. I approached them with a heartfelt purpose. It worked! Fundraising is, as the then Parish Priest always reminded me, a "friend raising".
I made lots of friends since. Beginning from befriending this suggested dozen, within weeks my knowledge and experience about the people in our community widened beyond "strictly business" only (unlike in the corporate world). These people gave me ideas and also more names to be contacted or met. Their friendship and stories became my inspiration.
Apart from solid business strategy and communication skills that I brought with me, inspiration was, indeed, my powerful tool. I communicated this inspiration back to the community through an article I wrote weekly in our church bulletin: This was my only way of knocking the door of their hearts.
In addition, I took every opportunity to meet other people in our churches at almost every weekend after Mass. I personalised every greeting; thank-you phone calls, letters, cards, and emails.
When only one chance to make a speech was given, I spoke from the heart. When I ran out of words, I brought music: I produced a classical music concert series (first time in my life producing anything like this) -- bringing back the music experience in the community (not since the 1940's).
The fundraising was launched in end of April 2012. Within four months, in August, we raised nearly $500,000!
Apparently, that was enough by September 2012. There was a sudden change in the Parish's agenda: priorities were re-arranged and the fundraising was subject to be continued perhaps sometime in 2013. Alternatively, the Parish will make do with whatever we've got.
Was it a work of magic? No. It wasn't. It was the power of inspiration that moved people's hearts in the community to work together with respect.
Had I been worried too much about my lack of experience and afraid of not being able to raise $2.5 million, I would not have the confidence as I had -- as I made the best of my time and worked with all my heart. That was all I did: Worked with all my heart, bit by bit, focussing only on what my hands needed to do -- did the right things and did them right.
And that by itself became my legacy. Now that I have left the Office, I can ponder -- what I wanted to be remembered as: Someone who was not afraid of the "unknown" hard work -- dared to embrace every difficulty and uncertainty with patience and peace; knowing that sincerity, integrity, and honesty alone will guide the way to success.
Am I dead yet? No. Not yet.
But I move on with ever growing confidence that I have the gift of learning (as I've learned about fundraising). And it is very powerful when I always strive to use it with humility. With humility always comes sincerity, integrity and honesty. With these I will mark my next legacy in other work place(s). Not easy, though. But, I will carry on.
Peter Drucker, once told a story, when he was thirteen, he had an inspiring religion teacher who one day asked the class, "What do you want to be remembered for?" And if someone can't answer the question by the time when he is fifty, that person will have wasted his life. (Thank God when I read this I wasn't fifty yet. Since then on I have always been inspired by this question.)
Now, I urge you, leave a legacy then whatever life's calling you to do: "What do you want to be remembered for?"
Does it have to be big and spectacular? I don't think so! It can be as simple as leaving a task and job well done at all times. Start today for tomorrow's legacy. And life will be meaningful and never wasted!