What happens to those who are forgotten? Billions of those who died thousands of years ago with no mark on history for us to remember them by, what happens to them? Is that it, do they disappear like they were never there?
In a thousand years time, it will have happened to most of us. Significant names will be remembered and taught about in history classes, but the rest will simply fade. How far back can you or I remember the names of our ancestors? We think of our grandparents, maybe even great-grandparents, but who else?
Think of a rice farmer in China whose daily work was hard yet rewarding. She dies and is buried on her field, where battles are later fought and ownership changes hands every hundred years. A city is built on that land and she is forgotten. What happens to her now? Is she still there, fertilizing the soil so trees can grow? Is she up there, enjoying a life of happiness eternal? Or maybe she came back as an emperor or a writer or a worker or a slave.
The question that is asked is “How will I be remembered?” They imagine a long-lasting legacy where their accomplishments are taught in history books. Is that what brings fulfillment? Did those who were lost to the void of time fail?
Most of us will be forgotten by name, as most of us have forgotten our ancestors. I believe that we are never forgotten.
How did that farmer treat her sons and daughters? How did she treat her neighbors and her community? With love and respect or with doubt and distrust? Love is not a limited resource. We leave behind our love, and it carries on.
If she loved her children, it would teach them to love others, and future generations have that love passed on to them. If she loved her neighbors and cared for them in times of need, they may have shown the same kindness to others, and that love would carry.
Maybe she only loved her crops, her flowers, and her field. How does love carry then? But someone eats those crops, and someone admires those flowers, and someone lies on her field enjoying a pleasant day. The love put into each of those things is stored until it can be passed on to someone new. Someone eats those crops and enjoys a full meal. Another admires the flowers and develops a new respect for the beauty around him. Love can be given, stored, and given again.
Maybe she was cold and uncaring, but one day showed the smallest ounce of kindness to a hungry child, who remembers the act for years and years, paying it forward every now and then. Love can carry.
And what happens to those who were hateful? Maybe their hate carries all this way, but I don’t believe that. Love can end that hate – it’s just that sometimes not enough love is given to do that.
We are all products of our communities, and each person in our community is a product of their own. It carries like this for generations and generations. I will be forgotten by name, but I believe that the people I inspire and the love I give will keep moving for years and years to come.