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Berdine's Corner

What Will Be Your Legacy?

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

There are countless people whose legacies we all think about when their names are mentioned. Internationally, many of us have looked to people like Mahatma Gandhi, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. Here in the United States, people like President Barack Obama, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks are often looked to. In Georgia, some giants have walked the same soil as we, people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Hosea Williams, and Congressman John Lewis. Although these people many times, seem larger than life, they didn't do anything we couldn't. In fact, right here in the middle Georgia area, there were people who took a stand for blacks during the sixties like Bert Bivins III, Elaine Lucas, Thelma Dillard, Ozzie Bell McKay, my daddy, Herbert Dennard, Sr., and many, many others. They sacrificed for the good of others and made a difference in someone else’s life.

Last month marked the second anniversary of my mother’s death (October 27, 2008). A few months back marked the first anniversary of her baby brother's death (David Lee Dillard). The deaths of two of the most influential people in my life have led me to look at death and life through an entirely different perspective. Their deaths have forced me to look at my own mortality and how short our time really is here on earth. However, their lives have caused me to reflect on my own. Neither my mama nor Uncle Lee was a civil rights leader or famous politician like many of the people named above. Berdine, my mama, was a secretary, and Uncle Lee was an educator. I’m sure my mama never made the newspaper while she was living. Neither did my uncle, unless it was affiliated with his schools. They were both ordinary people, but they left extraordinary legacies, legacies of sharing, giving, and loving.

What both my mama and Uncle Lee had in common with all of the great people above is they were servants. Jesus said, "But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." My mama and Uncle Lee, like the aforementioned, were great because they spent their lives helping others. We may never get the accolades of other people, nor own the riches here on earth, but if we sincerely love others and show them through kind acts (not for show), then we have done what we were supposed to do and possess riches above all. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in his "Drum Major for Justice" sermon, "If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong, Then my living will not be in vain."

During the past 20 months, there have been several entries in this paper about Berdine's life. Many people who didn't know her have stopped me and said that she must have been a wonderful person. I am always proud to speak about her. She lived her life trying to help others. She was my hero, and my living example of how I should treat others. As kids, we idolize movie stars, singers, and athletes; however, as we get older, we begin to find other people to try to emulate. I was no different. As I child, I looked up to Natalie Cole (she later was strung out on drugs), and I looked to Janet Jackson (she later became sex crazed and had a wardrobe malfunction). However, I later turned my thinking to my parents and my close relatives.

We all have legacies. Some are good; some are not so good. We can all learn lessons from others. We have one life, and it is very short. When we die, we may leave some houses, money, jewelry, or clothes to those we love, but the greatest gift we can possibly leave is a great legacy. What will you be remembered for? What is your legacy?

Berdine's Corner Archives

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David L. Dillard and Berdine Dennard at her retirement celebration.