The Story of a Life

Posted 2016-12-23 by MCF

To kick off the 27th annual National Community Foundation Week, the Marietta Community Foundation (MCF) partnered with Marietta Main Street and Marietta High School on a veterans’ portrait project. Area veterans shared their stories with the Marietta High School art classes, led by teacher Heath Rader. Students then created portraits of the veterans that were displayed at the Marietta Main Street event held on Veterans’ Day.

Hearing honest accounts of being a soldier allowed students to better understand the human element of patriotism and connect to something larger than themselves. “Our assignments are just to better our own skills,” said participating student Katie Kitchen. “But this project gave us the opportunity to extend beyond the classroom and into the community.” The emotional stories of veterans provided students with a new found understanding they could express through their artwork.

In addition to the veteran speakers who visited the MHS classrooms, students also learned the life story of a recently deceased veteran whose family helped share his legacy. This inspired one student in the art class to paint their own grandfather. It also shows how the sharing of personal legacies can bring together a family and forge better understanding of a family history.

The week’s events ended with the Foundation’s 2nd Annual Event and their Grant Your Grant Contest. This year’s event continued the theme of what it means to share a life’s story. Accomplished author and founder of Personal Legacy Advisors, Susan Turnbull, wrapped up the evening’s speakers by exploring the deeper meaning of a legacy and how ethical wills help establish a legacy that lasts.

An ethical will is a complement to a legal will. It is about laying out decisions or even family stories for family members or other loved ones. According to Turnbull, people sometimes wonder if they have stories or if anyone will be interested in what they do have to say. A legacy is, however, the one thing that really lasts. It is established through our actions, yet in an ethical will people have a way to make their legacy truly personal.

In an ethical will, a person can lay out the reasons behind a legal will or simply share life stories, values and last thoughts. What you hope to be remembered by or what you strove to accomplish in life all makes up an ethical will. Much like the veterans’ portraits project that began Community Foundation Week, Turnbull showed the impact a story can have to bring people together even after they are gone. She also showed that a legacy is an ever present work in progress, rather than something put off for ‘later.’

As a society, we crave a story. Whether through theater, cinema, television or print, the lives of others are compelling. These stories offer a window into someone else’s life that allows us to glimpse new realities and form new understandings. Yet all too often, we forget to open that window into our own life’s stories to enrich the lives of those around us.

The two main events in this year’s National Community Foundation Week acted as bookends to one overarching message. A legacy is the sharing of a life and its core values. It is a way to enact change and bring a community together by connecting individuals, non-profits and local businesses.

“I am so grateful to our partners in the veterans’ portrait project and for the attendees, participants and speakers that made our 2nd Annual Event and the Grant Your Grant Contest such a success,” said Heather Allender, MCF president and CEO. “Without their support, and the support of our event sponsor, Superior Toyota, none of our initiatives would be possible.”