Our inheritance doesn’t come to us from our parents.
The saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.” And with regard to our body, our possessions, our beloved family and friends, they’re right. The diamonds and the drinking buddies stay behind.
But there’s one thing we do take with us. It’s the only thing we own: Our actions. It’s the only thing we create, the only thing we can leave behind.
For instance, I’ve been thinking there’s nothing I can do about the women in countries run by the Taliban, about the atrocities in Ukraine, about the epidemic of mass shootings in our own country, or the melting icebergs, or the child sex trafficking that is going on in high and low places everywhere.
But it’s not true. There are things I can do. They’re not very gratifying because a) no one will know about it, and b) I won’t live long enough to see whether it worked or not. But there are things I can and must do.
I have spent a great deal of my life as part of the problem.
Now I have the rest of my life to be part of the solution.
To do that, though, I have to stop running away from the mess.
There’s a Buddhist Sutra called the Five Remembrances where I learned about the importance of my actions. (For a serious take on this, This talk by Sr Thuận Nghiêm, from Plum Village is extremely helpful in understanding this sutra.)
For a simplified take on these Five Remembrances, try this:
1. We’re all going to get old.
2. We’re going to get sick.
3. And we’re going to die. One hundred percent.
4. Plus, we’re going to lose everything and everyone we ever loved.
5. The only thing we own is our actions.
This is the bare truth of the world. But that last one, the fifth remembrance? It reminds us that every morning, there’s a whole day ahead of us, and we’re the ones filling that day with actions—and those actions determine our net worth, those actions are what we pass down to our children.