Stories Told

My most enduring work

My dad turns 72 today. Since he retired about ten years ago, he has given his time and energy to several political and social causes in my hometown, where he still lives. He says that South Bend gave him so much after he moved there from West Virginia that he wants to pay it back.

I see this so often among men as they age – they want to make a big impact that can be their legacy. I’m starting to feel that myself, now that I’m well into middle age. I want there to be lasting evidence that I was here after I’m gone!

You can never predict what will last and what will be lost to the sands of time. I’m a twice-published author – and both books ended up remaindered and forgotten. I had my brief radio career, which brought very minor celebrity at the time, but let’s face it, who remembers part-time DJs from 20 years ago? And I’ve delivered successful project after successful project in my career, once even getting a standing ovation from a room full of customers. But I work in technology, where things move fast and last year’s hot stuff is this year’s old news.

What I’m standing next to in this photo might just be my most enduring work.

Me at WMHD

In college, I lived in the basement of a residence hall. Only four of the rooms down there housed students; the rest were used for storage, a laundry facility, a TV lounge, and the campus radio station. I was General Manager of that radio station, which is why I lived down there.

For most of those years, the basement hallway walls were depressing shades of brown. Toward the end of my junior year, I asked the Dean of Students if I could paint the walls in more cheerful hues. He not only said yes, but he also said he’d provide the paint and supplies.

I convinced some of the other basement dwellers to come back to school a week early at the end of summer and paint with me. We knocked it out in a few days.

That was in 1988. When my sons and I visited campus last fall for the annual homecoming bonfire, we visited the basement and, to my astonishment, found that paint job still looking as fresh and clean as the day we laid down our rollers and brushes 24 years before!

Do you have a story of something you’ve done that has unexpectedly endured? Tell about it in the comments, or write the story on your own blog and link back here!

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14 thoughts on “My most enduring work

  1. How cool! My dad was the high-powered, international business exec for a big, cell company. He was laid off and made a complete change in careers to work in a small assisted living community. It’s been amazing to watch him volunteer, head philanthropic comittees, love what he does everyday.

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  2. ryoko861 says:

    That had to be gratifying! You left your stamp and it’s still there today! And it was appreciated! It’s always nice to make a difference whether it be for the company you worked for(these days it’s expected or you’re out!) or your community! And with all this research you’re doing on the Dixie Highway and being on the committee, you’re efforts will not be forgotten! You’re in their history books somewhere!

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  3. hmunro says:

    Another wonderful post, Jim! I’m so glad you had the satisfaction of seeing that something you created had endured, all these years later. Like your father, mine has also become more interested in creating a lasting legacy as he gets older. He was recently reminiscing about his career — first as an executive, and then as a college professor — and wondering which contributions would be remembered. As he spoke it struck me that, while his professional accomplishments are certainly noteworthy, I’ll remember him most for the many valuable lessons he taught me and especially for the values he passed on. THAT is truly the legacy we leave behind, I think: The happiness we bring to others, and the good we do for our loved ones and our communities. And on that score, I’m certain you’ve created quite a rich and truly lasting legacy. (Though I’d still love to hear some clips from your DJ days. Grin.)

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  4. Thanks for this post Jim! What a cool experience it must have been to go back and see your work still there. It reminds me that while in University (over 18 yrs ago) a select few of us snuck into the student union building to place a time capsule into a wall where renovations were happening. I assume it’s still there, sitting quietly and waiting for the next set of renos to reveal it. I laugh at the thought of people finding it someday!

    Your reference to your father makes me think of my own father’s legacy. While his career was incredible, it’s his child like behaviour and laugh I cherish the most. He tells the story of Jack and the Beanstalk like no other man I know! What’s great about it is that he’s passed that down to me.

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    • Heh, some college buddies and I snuck into our school’s main classroom building while it was being renovated too, but we just took lots of photos. Your time-capsule idea is awesome.

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  5. I have probably spent more time thinking about impermanence lately and am getting more comfortable with the idea. Although I still find it comforting to have a few things that have remained the same for a long time.

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  6. I ran a radio station for a bit as well, I think sneaking some of my favorite vinyl into the collection to be found years down the line might be my most enduring legacy from college. Last I looked, they were still there (unknown if they’d been played since then though).

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