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What will be your legacy?

By Nina Steele 

That many people today have heard of both Isaac Newton and Florence Nightingale 287 years and 104 years after their respective deaths is testament that legacy is more than just passing down the family name. Indeed both Isaac Newton and Florence Nightingale had no children, however their personal achievements have elevated them to historic figures. There are many other well-known figures who fall within that category, people long dead, but still being talked about with respect and admiration. Closer to home, there are many childless teachers, nurses, doctors, paramedics to name but these few, doing great jobs and adding value to society. I remember writing last year about the fear of being forgotten as a childless person once you die and the response the article received proved that this was a genuine concern for quite a fair number of people.

It is fair to say that only a fool will insist on exclusively linking legacy to reproduction, but then again you will be surprised. I still meet people who are adamant that legacy is all about the next generation. To them a person’s true worth is through the children they leave behind. I suppose it falls on us all childless/childfree people to challenge those views. This takes me back to the original question that this article asks: What will be your legacy? What would you like to be remembered for? I anticipate some people replying that they cannot be certain what they would like to be remembered for as they do not feel they have achieved much yet. That is a fair point if you are still young, as chances are that you will have many more achievements under your belt by the time you retire for example. Working in the charitable sector, I have come across a fair number of people who start ‘giving something back’ to society once they retire. A childless woman who has been a volunteer for over 2 decades, used to run her own business, however once she retired, she felt that it was time for her to give something back and she has been a volunteer ever since. Volunteers like her save charities a lot of money that is then used to fund desperately needed services.

Volunteering is in my view, a great way to leave a legacy in addition to donating money to charities. I do understand however that for many people, myself included, work commitment often means that finding the time to volunteer can be difficult, which explains why many people come forward once they retire. Without the work that volunteers do, many charities would have to close down. Going back to the lady I mentioned above, she volunteers more than once a week and it is fair to say that she will be remembered for her valuable contribution long after she is gone. There are many other childless people like her, who are doing great jobs within their communities and are respected and admired for it. This is the broad view of legacy that many tend to overlook. Yes having children is valuable to society, as they will be the future teachers, nurses, doctors etc, without mentioning future tax payers, but equally important is the work that those who never had children do within their communities and beyond.

Childless couples and legacy

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