Who Tells Your Story?
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
I am struck by a thread that stitched the beginning and end of July together this 2020.
Who tells your story?
This theme runs through #Hamilton the Musical, the film of which debuted for all of us on Netflix July 3rd, as our founding fathers (and mothers too) fret several times throughout the show about how history will remember them. Alexander Hamilton is challenged by wife Eliza, “why do you write like you’re running out of time?... You and your words, obsessed with your legacy.” In the final song, the company laments, “who lives, who dies, who tells your story? Hamilton worried about how others would remember him. How would his life be evaluated after he no longer was alive to control the narrative?
Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
— Lyrics from "The World Was Wide Enough" from Hamilton the Musical
For most of us, the story of our lives is written by others - a spouse, a son, a friend.
But at the end of this July, another remarkable man with more than a few similarities in life to Alexander Hamilton, decided to say his own farewell, taking his chiseled pen to carve out the first angles of #goodtrouble that will define his #legacy. Not content to leave the task to others, #JohnLewis penned a memorable farewell letter to all of us in which he describes his own legacy:
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
Congressman Lewis is more than willing to share his legacy with others, nodding to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics in #Hamilton that legacy is “ planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”. For him, legacy is something that lives on beyond any one individual. It lives in all of us, and so John Lewis leaves us with a charge to nurture the seeds he helped plant.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting #love be your guide.
Instead of waiting for others to define your life, have you ever thought of doing it yourself? After all, you won’t be here to enjoy all the glowing things loved ones will write, so why not take stock of your life and share it yourself? What do you want your legacy to be? Like Eliza Hamilton at the end of the story, John Lewis inserted himself into the narrative others were writing. There can be no one better to guide those who loved you than you.
If someone asks you to reflect on your life’s meaning, what will you say?
And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?
— Lyrics from "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?" from Hamilton the Musical