The passing of Christopher Peterson this week has affected me profoundly. His last blog reminded of how in our day to day life with others we are creating what will be our legacies. How is it that we would want to be remembered after we are gone; by loved ones, people we work with, people we play with , people we meet in our every day interactions and by people whom we dislike? Perhaps an important clue as to how we build a legacy is to remind ourselves each moment that “other people matter”. This was Peterson’s motto, which he not only spoke about, but which many have said that he lived.
In one of my classes this week a we heard from Clarence. I won’t tell his story here, it is his story and I feel it is his to tell, but you can witness a part of Clarence’s story in this video: Supportive Housing of Waterloo. I will say that Clarence is on a remarkable journey, one that in his own words, “is a story of hope”.
What came together for me as Clarence spoke was the truth of Peterson’s assertion that “other people matter”. I was also struck by the importance of one of the major contributions that Peterson left us as part of his legacy. Peterson and his colleague Nanook Park created an assessment scale called the Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths that is designed to identify character strengths in people. The scale measures 24 character strengths in people and it can be accessed at the Authentic Happiness website.
After Clarence had finished telling his story I reflected that I was able to identify three of his top five strengths. In his story I had witnessed courage writ large. I had also witnessed the ability to receive and to give love and also kindness. The telling and the hearing of his story was sacred work of the heart. And this work is accessible to all of us.
Here is an exercise that you might try. Familiarize yourself with the 24 strengths by taking the survey at the Authentic Happiness website. What are your top five strengths? Can you recognize these strengths in yourself? The work of the heart is now to recognize and to let people know what you see in them as their strengths. It just might be that we can build our legacy in this way by allowing each others’ strengths to flourish.