My 85-year-old uncle, who I adored, just passed away. Charles Goldberg was an amazing man. Despite services taking place in the middle of a work week on Valentine’s Day, the crowded synagogue in Charleston, South Carolina hosted a standing room only event.
Yes, he had numerous career and civic accomplishments. But the reason that three generations of family members, friends, associates and more flocked to honor Uncle Charlie was because of how he lived his life. Goldberg served as a catalyst of positive change, thriving by helping people activate their potential. Want to make a difference in the world around you? Here are three ways to create a lasting legacy:
Focus on the “we,” not the me. Goldberg always focused on the collective good over personal accolades. During the memorial service, we learned that he wrote a letter ten years ago, entrusted to his son Steven, to be read at his funeral one day. That self-deprecating note, shared by Steven and his brother Michael, was hilarious. Uncle Charlie said he only wanted two speakers giving the eulogy – his sons – and that the rabbi needed to keep his comments brief. He threatened to climb out of his coffin if the whole thing took longer than five minutes. Uncle Charlie even said that after the service, people should go back to their busy lives instead of standing outside at the ceremony in whatever weather conditions may exist. BTW, Charleston was sunny and 62 degrees that day, which I’m sure he somehow arranged with Mother Nature to minimize the inconvenience to mourners paying their respects.
Practice leadership. Think Lady Gaga is impressive as a multi-hyphenate singer, award-winning actor and philanthropist? She can’t touch Charles Goldberg, who practiced serial leadership his entire life. A prominent attorney, he served as president of organizations like the Charleston County Bar Association, Charleston Lawyers Club, the Jewish Community Center, Synagogue Emanu-El, Hebrew Benevolent Society, chaired the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, and much more. Uncle Charlie delighted in igniting the spark of leadership and achievement in others. Personally, his example encouraged me to aim higher as a student and throughout my career. When Charles Goldberg said he was proud of you, it meant the world.
Be kind. Low key and modest, Goldberg chose kindness at every turn. He had a smile for everyone, insisting on making eye contact and listening deeply to what individuals had to say. Rather than be intimidated by a strong woman, he fell for his wife Harriett nearly 60 years ago when she changed a flat tire while wearing an evening gown during one of their dates. It was no surprise he was her biggest cheerleader when she went back to school and later built a successful practice as a CPA. He taught his sons the importance of kindness, and they instilled that practice in their children as well. Uncle Charlie made kindness contagious everywhere he went.
Think you have to wait to a certain age to think about your legacy? The truth is you can begin creating a powerful legacy at any point in your life. If you start now, consider how wonderful it would be to witness how those efforts improve the lives of those you care about and the entire community.