“I became an artist and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
This is only a piece of Viola Davis’ inspirational Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech at this year’s Academy Awards. She went on to talk about how the one place that the people with all the world’s greatest potential are gathered is the graveyard. Graveyards are full of people with untold stories and she thanked playwright August Wilson (author of Fences which was then adapted into the film she won the Oscar for), for writing stories about ordinary people full of hope, love, and redemption.
Viola Davis then challenged artists to exhume the bodies from the graveyard essentially by telling their stories. We celebrate life by remembering, sharing, and telling these stories. This is one of our privileges as artists. However, it is also our privilege as human beings. We don’t have to wait till we write or star in an award winning play to exhume the lost and forgotten, it’s possible to do that on a daily basis.
A Legacy of Remembrance
So how do we exhume the lost and forgotten? Check out this quote that goes hand in hand with what Viola Davis is saying:
“I was wondering if everybody could be remembered. Like, if we got organized, and assigned a certain number of corpses to each living person, would there be enough living people to remember the dead people?…Sure, anyone can name fourteen dead people. But we’re disorganized mourners, so a lot of people end up remembering Shakespeare, and no one ends up remembering the person he wrote Sonnet Fifty-five about.”
-Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by: John Green
We can’t all be famous, but that doesn’t mean we have to be forgotten. We can all make a difference, leave a legacy, be an encouragement, and be remembered for the small things not just the big. How can we do this? We can start by recognizing and remembering the legacy that others have left.
The Challenge of 14 People
I would challenge you to identify some people in your life who aren’t famous, but have either made a difference in your life personally or you think are just worth remembering maybe for something small they’ve done. Remember that it’s easy to recall the big things but it’s the little every day things that are just as important yet often go unrecognized and get forgotten.
Take Augustus’ advice and think of 14 people you want to remember. Maybe some of the people on your list are dead, maybe they’re people you don’t really know but your paths have crossed once and the encounter changed your life, or maybe they are people you could still contact. Chances are you have at least some of the people on the list that you see or could actually thank or recognize.
If you remember someone for something they’ve done or how they’ve shaped your life, let them know. Don’t wait until someone is dead to exhume them, restore those people and stories now!
When you look at the ways you’ve been impacted both big and small, I hope you realize that you have the ability to do the same in other’s lives. I came across a quote in a planner that said:
“We spend so much time trying to make it big that we forget that it’s the little things in life that make the most difference.”
Don’t let yourself get so lost in being famous that you forget that your legacy starts with who you are everyday. Help others realize this too by remembering the small things that people have done to shape who we are. In doing this we follow the advice of both Viola Davis and Augustus Waters. We exhume the bodies of the lost, we remember the stories of the forgotten, and we celebrate life!
Proverbs 3:27- Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.