The recent death of my older brother got me thinking about legacies. A legacy is often thought of as an amount of money or property left to someone in a will. It can also mean something handed down from one generation to the next—like a tradition or a character quality. This type of legacy tends to be more intangible but often more impactful. Kindness was a meaningful, intangible legacy left by my brother. As I thought about this latter definition of legacy, someone else came to mind.
My friends Sid and Donna are amazing grandparents to five grandchildren, two of whom have disabilities. One year ago, their grandson Elijah who has autism, announced to them on his thirteenth birthday, “When I’m fourteen I want to go on a Disney Cruise.” Here’s where their legacy comes in. They could afford to buy that cruise for Elijah, but Sid and Donna decided many years ago that they would assist their grandsons with disabilities by providing as much life enrichment, spiritual mentoring, and life skills training as they could. They wanted to support the boys’ parents by playing an active role on the boys’ “team.” They wanted their grandsons to grow up as independent as possible as well as having a strong relationship with Jesus.
So, they devised a plan. They told Elijah how much the cruise would cost. Because there was no air travel involved, it was $440. They suggested that Elijah could collect plastic bottles to pay for the trip. Once a month, they would take Elijah and all the bottles he’d collected to the recycling center. Elijah would help count the money when they got home. Each week, when Sid and Donna took Elijah to the High School Ministry at their local church, he had to drop off part of the money at church for his tithe—another part of the legacy they are teaching him.
Friends contributed bottles now and then too, and the total continued to grow. October, and Elijah’s fourteenth birthday were getting close. At the end of September, they took a load of bottles to the recycling center and Elijah reached his goal! On the following Wednesday night as they entered church, Elijah said “my tie.” Sid and Donna realized that Elijah was remembering his tithe without any prompting from them. What a beautiful legacy!
Needless to say, Elijah loved that Disney Cruise! He had worked hard and earned it himself. I am so grateful for the example Sid and Donna are setting by leaving a lasting legacy.
What legacy can you leave for those with special needs in your life?
Susan Hewer is co-leader, along with her husband Scott, of “In His Image” the special needs ministry at Calvary Chapel of Oxnard, CA. Scott & Susan have enjoyed many years as special education teachers, but feel very blessed to be part of the growing field of disability ministry in their “retirement” years. They have been married for thirty-eight years and have one wonderful daughter, Gina.