From all outward appearances, Jack McDonald was a man of modest means. He lived most of his adult life in a middle-class neighborhood, he clipped coupons, he took the bus, and he often wore sweaters with holes in the elbows.
For thirty years he worked as an attorney with the Veteran’s Administration. He married for the first time when he was in his fifties, and never had children. At 82, he and his wife moved into a retirement home, and a few years later, she passed away.
This past September, Mr. McDonald died as a result of injuries from a fall. It was then that his “secret life” became known. He was frugal and lived simply, but as it turned out, he was a genius at picking stocks. Over the years he amassed a fortune worth $187 million–while continuing to cut corners in his personal spending habits.
Upon his death, he left his money to three organizations: Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington Law School, and the Salvation Army. His gift was the largest in the history of the state of Washington.
I have no idea how Mr. McDonald lived his life, whether he knew Jesus as his Savior, what his spiritual values were. But I do know that he understood something about building a legacy that many of us miss. He understood the truth behind the words, often attributed to Winston Churchill: “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”
Some leave a legacy of dollars. Others leave a legacy of service. Others, a model of selfless sacrifice worthy of imitating. It’s a question we would all do well to consider: What legacy am I leaving behind for those who come after me?
“Whoever finds their life will lose it,” Jesus taught us, “and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
My prayer for each of us is that we would be faithful stewards of the legacy of those who have gone before us, and pass on a legacy of Christlikeness to those who will follow.