On my way to Iceland last week I saw a reference made in a brochure aboard that country’s national airline, Icelandair, which made me first smile then contemplate: contemplate about the impact our words and the legacies we form from those words have, beyond the borders of our own lives. The brochure listed the three different varietals of wine from which we could choose during a flight en route to this beautiful, Nordic island that is still “highly geologically active with many volcanoes”:
“Red like a rose, white like snow, or sparkling like an Elvis Presley suit.”
I chose red, but never mind that. Elvis Presley?! Did I really just stumble upon a little piece of Memphis referred to, so fittingly, in the advertisements of a company based in a country just outside the Arctic Circle? Of course I know that Elvis’ life and legacy have far surpassed that of most human beings, have crossed more borders than most ever will, but there was still this incredible sense of pride in seeing that a man who made his home in Memphis is still revered to such an extent that he is referenced globally, even long after his death.
There are so many who live in Memphis whose lives reflect the sort that can, and will, be referenced for their lifetimes and beyond. They are the givers of goods and healers of hearts, the anonymous ones who use their hands to build and buy homes for strangers. They are the writers of words that affect how we think and feel, causing a shift in our attitudes that sets in motion the desire to be better, do better. Memphis is full of CEOs, artists, entrepreneurs, teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers who will stop us in our tracks with something they’ve brought to our attention, initiating 180 degree turns when we are forced to consider the question, “how will what I’ve done with my life thrive beyond the periphery of my own personal space?”
I’m not naïve; we can’t, and won’t, all be the next “Elvis”. Yet I wonder: did Elvis even realize the far-reaching effects his work would have on the world around him, and a world of which he wasn’t aware? We never know who we are impacting with what we say or do. I often struggle with the thoughts that maybe what I am saying or sharing isn’t that important to anyone at all. But then I get a note from someone I wasn’t even aware was exposed to my work and realize that we never know who is reading, listening to, learning, growing and changing because of, the words we form. We never know the impact our legacies may have, long after our lives on this earth have ended but the words we’ve written and spoken remain embedded in ways we wouldn’t have foreseen. Far beyond the borders of our own lives.