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What does it matter?

What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun? Ecclesiastes 3.1

In the film Living, which is set in the 1950s but based on a much earlier novel by Leo Tolstoy, Bill Nighy plays Rodney Williams, a senior bureaucrat at the London County Council. Terminal illness inspires him to make the most of what remains of his life. A large part of the film dwells on his legacy, in the form of a play-park which local mothers had been petitioning for but which only saw the light of day when Williams finally takes the women seriously.

It is all very understated, which is what legacies should be. In contrast, present society obsesses about them. Scarcely has a leader taken up their position than media reporters are speculating about their legacy - as if all that matters to prominent people is that the rest of us continue to idolise their memory!

Today the people of Strath and beyond bid farewell to Angus Sutherland, who would be regarded as a local hero, in terms of his effervescent personality and service to the community he loved. I did not know Angus well but I enjoyed a couple of good conversations with him, before illness robbed him of his faculties and lockdown prevented social gathering. The impression he left me with was of a man who was deeply committed, yet who wore his achievements lightly.

Angus' widow, Grace, informed me that what motivated her late husband was love. Love delights in doing good for the sake of it and without an eye on legacy. Jesus summed up the whole what the Bible teaches about life, in exhorting us to love God and to love others, demonstrating what that looks like in his own life. When we have done that there is no room for anything so trivial as worrying about legacies.



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