Leaving your mark on the sands of time
By Margaret Matthews, Senior Columnist
I recently listened to a television newscast which announced the passing of Lauren Bacall. The announcer interviewed someone on the program, asking him, “How will she be remembered?”
Bacall made her debut in the film world at the age of 19 as a young actress with a sultry voice who played the leading lady in the 1944 Humphrey Bogart film To Have and to Have Not. It was probably her best film acting, and she portrayed such sophistication and maturity that one could hardly believe she was only 19. Although she acted in many other films throughout her career, this film stands out as the mark that she left on Hollywood and society in general.
I think of others who have made their mark on the world, some in positive and others in negative ways. For instance, Adolf Hitler, the German dictator and notorious racist who hated all Jews and exterminated six-million of them in the gas chambers—it’s clear that his atrocities ostracized him from any kind thoughts that anyone might have had of him.
Another despicable man was Saddam Hussein, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. The coward hid underground in a tunnel for eight months and grew a beard to disguise himself until karma caught up with him.
On the flip-side of the coin, there were civil rights activists like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela, whose non-violent strategies were successful in bringing social justice to oppressed people living in three different parts of the world. They will long be remembered with fondness and goodwill by generations to come.
I think of another person, Mother Teresa—small in stature, but very big-hearted—whose love and compassion for suffering humanity took her to the slums of Kolkata, where she lived a life of poverty and dedicated herself to the downtrodden outcasts of society. Her name will go down in the annals of history as a self-sacrificing person whose heart knew no bounds.
Another person who has made a tremendous mark on society is Oprah Winfrey, a philanthropist who spent her early childhood living in poverty with a grandmother who was harsh and used a stick on her for petty childish offences. As Winfrey grew older, she overcame these obstacles and put them in the past.
Winfrey’s rise to fame and fortune, and her tremendous business acumen, enabled her to fund her philanthropic work, like the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. She’s inspired children and young people living in the United States to give their time and energy by fundraising for worthy causes and making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.
People like Bacall will be remembered for their skill and contributions to an industry, notorious villains will not be remembered fondly, and generous figures like Winfrey will be remembered for their charitable work. People in Canada have the opportunity to make an impact on their communities by helping others or donating their time or money to charities.
Which leaves the question: how will you be remembered after you have gone?