I recently went to a breakfast meeting in Bakersfield which presented information about John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club and the man that helped convince Teddy Roosevelt to start the National Parks. In 1976 California historians named him the greatest Californian. (I'm sure that he'd still be near the top today.) But despite being an important Californian, he wasn't born here. He was born in Scotland.
And, until recently, he was virtually unknown in Scotland. Of course, leaving when he was only eleven meant that he hadn't had too much impact on Scotland while he was there. But given the impact he had on this country, helping us learn the importance of keeping some places wild, when Americans went to Scotland they tried to track down his birthplace in Dunbar. And because of that the Scots began to learn about the work of John Muir.
In fact, they have now completely reclaimed him and have had festivals, and put in a visitor center at his birthplace. They've added him to their list of famous Scottish authors, and created a trail across the country, coast to coast, with one end at his birthplace.
We all leave behind us some kind of legacy, and I'm sure we all hope that ours is a good one. At least one where the good out weighs the bad. But we often can't tell what we've really left behind. I'm sure John Muir had no idea that one hundred years after his death there would be an interest in his life in Scotland.
Perhaps it is getting harder to make such big difference in the world. A lot of good ideas have been taken but let's not stop trying to find the new ones. We're getting much better about not defending the bad ones (though we still have a lot of work to do there too). But we all still leave our ripples, that reach out from us to touch the future. Just as we have been touched by all the things that have happened before us. Everything's connected, past to future.
As John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
If you want to learn a bit more about John Muir and enjoy graphic novels, the Scottish Book Trust has a down-loadable one for free.