People say my daughter looks like me. She does, but it is not the only similarity we share.
We both love to decorate. I am in my French Country stage of life having gone through Country and Colonial.
Rebekah, not so much.
Walking through the first home she and her husband Terrence bought, the word eclectic comes to mind. It is a house that says, “Artists live here.” Explosions of color greet you when you walk into the living room and continue to welcome you in whatever direction you turn. There’s peacock blue in the living room, burnt orange in the dining room and raspberry in the downstairs bath. Chartreuse green – which feels like happiness on the staircase wall – is mixed with stripes and a bold mural I recognize as Rebekah’s work.
And finally, when you leave, you are treated to the unique art on the front door which has been covered with Rebekah’s signature swirls and dots created with a Sharpie pen.
Yes, quite a difference from the inheritable rustic provincial elegance I’ve strived to create in my home. But, I think that’s the point.
We also both love to cook and entertain. Even when she was too short to reach the counter, she’d pull up a chair and help me stir the batter for cookies and scones as we prepared for open houses and afternoon teas. She learned to carefully measure ingredients for cakes and watched the time as we baked cookies for a school function or the new neighbors next door.
When Rebekah was 6 years old, we moved into a nice white house on Rua Fialho de Almeida in Campinas, Saõ Paulo, Brazil. By that time she was a pro at new languages and cultures, having already lived in two states and Madrid, Spain. We settled into our new life quickly; every morning Terry and I would go to language school where we were learned Portuguese, and Rebekah would head off to the Little Red Riding Hood School where she soaked up the language like a sponge. And, just like in Spain, she was speaking it faster and better than Terry and I ever hoped to accomplish.
One day she burst into the kitchen with a mission. “I need cardboard boxes,” she said, her beribboned braids flying through the air. When I asked why, she told me about the little boy at the front gate. “He’s looking for cardboard and paper because the storm blew his house down.”
We found some old moving boxes out back in the storage room and broke several down. “I can do it,” she insisted when I offered to help carry the cardboard to the front gate. Gathering her treasure, she balanced the awkward bundles under her arms and started down the narrow sidewalk that led to the front of the house. But before she reached her destination, she set her bundles down and ran back into the kitchen where I had returned to finish dinner preparations. “Do we have any food we can give them?” she asked in a low voice with a troubled look in her eyes. “I bet they’re hungry since they don’t have a house.”
She took three little loaves of fresh bread I’d bought for dinner and put them into the bag of black beans I brought from the pantry. By the time she added a banana, two apples and an orange, the bag was bulging, and she balanced it carefully in her arms as she made her way outside and lifted it through the bars to the eager hands that waited patiently on the other side. First the bag of food, and then, one by one, the flat boxes, destined to become the new walls of a shanty. They talked for a few minutes before the beautiful brown boy tucked the bag into the crook of one arm and dragged the cardboard down the street behind him, heading back to the hillside slum he called home.
The very next day, we went to the market and bought large bags of rice and beans and measured them out by the kilo into brown paper sacks Rebekah had decorated with pictures of hearts and flowers, carefully writing ARROZ across the bottom of half the bags with rice and FEIJÃO on the rest. Taping them shut, we lined them up on the lower pantry shelf so that whenever hungry children came clapping at the gate, Rebekah would have something to give them.
And that’s what she did. She watched for them, hurrying out to the gate to eagerly greet them before running back in to grab the bags of rice and whatever fruit and bread or cookies we had to send with them.
She loved the children who came to the gate; the only difference she saw between them and herself was the hunger in their eyes.
Rebekah is a married woman now, but I still see the generous heart of the little girl who drew pictures on brown paper bags and carried her gifts of food to the gate. I hope others see the fingerprints I have left on this child. But more importantly, I hope others see the fingerprints she has left on me.
Sometimes legacy is handed down, but other times a legacy is handed up. People may say my daughter looks like me, but I hope I look more like her.
As a mother I’ve learned that the greatest legacies are not family heirlooms or recipes handed down from generation to generation. The greatest legacies come when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our motives of love and compassion. Life’s too short to leave legacies for tomorrow – we must live them today and build trails on which our children will follow.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathy Chapman Sharp is a communications consultant, speaker and conference leader and author of Life’s Too Short to Miss the Big Picture for Women from which this article is excerpted. Chapman Sharp formerly was director of communications for Saddleback Church, Purpose Driven Ministries and The Chapel and has held management positions at LifeWay Christian Resources and the International Mission Board.)