I am what survives of me

Written by Sister Meghan Pollard, Fort Saskatchewan Elks No. 399

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments,
but what is woven into the lives of others.” Pericles

If you look up ‘legacy’ in the dictionary you will see a few different meanings. One is a gift of money or property. Another is something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. If you ask your friends or family what family legacy means to them, you may get a different answer from each of them. To some, it means their family genealogy and history. To others, it may be a list of things that they have accomplished in their lives. Things like values or life lessons that were handed down to them by their parents or grandparents, like a set of character traits or skills.  In other words, family legacy usually means the accomplishments, beliefs, actions and guidance you demonstrate in your lives that carry forward to future generations in a fashion which allow those family members to adopt and adapt them to make their lives meaningful and fruitful. Seems super simple right?

But building a family legacy isn’t just about “stuff”, its about building something that lives on through the generations. So how do you make your legacy come alive in a tangible way? Sometimes it’s as simple as asking yourself a few simple questions. Who are you? What are your beliefs, values, traditions and experiences?  What do you hope to give back? And the biggest one for me, what are your charitable community and mentoring activities?

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I come from a HUGE family of volunteers, men and women who have shaped my sense of community and drive to make my small corner of the world a better place for everyone while giving back. My Grandparent’s instilled within our family a sense of community spirit. They taught my Dad and my Uncle who in turn passed it on to the children who watched closely and listened intently.  We saw their deeds go with unspoken acknowledgement, sometimes with a hug or a smile, often time tears. It taught me to look past the needing to be seen for my actions to wanting to do them even if no one other than myself knew that I did it.

I have a unique perspective when it comes to the Elks, so many of my childhood memories are Elks related. How many kids do you know can say their Grandfather used to sit in for Santa. I remember my Dad in his whites heading out the door for Patrol Team competitions, installations, meetings, inter lodge visits, Remembrance Day, and Parades. My weekends were spent running around with my cousins at ball tournaments and BBQ’s or picnic’s. I watched my Grandfather curl at Bonspiel’s or play in dart tournaments and attended many dances and anniversaries over the decades. All these memories centered around the belief that giving back brought you so much in return, the comraderies and friendships that were created by helping just one single person made your life that much sweeter.

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I was taught by example to take what was important to me and teach it to someone else, whether that was cooking or knitting or volunteering my time to listen to someone and hold their hand for a moment. I volunteered my time as a student in high school with Robin Hood and special needs students and at a senior’s center in the tuck shop and eventually, once I’d graduated from high school, decided on nursing as a step. So, I became a nurse for a time, for over 10 years I dedicated my life to helping others through my touch and my heart. Then, in 2004, I became a mother for the first time and I learned of the sacrifices that a parent makes for their children, all of them I would do again in a heartbeat. I learned what being a special needs mother means and watched how my children changed my world and how they changed the

world around them. I learned how to be humble and ask for help, even when I thought I was too proud to admit I needed it. I also learned how to see past the hurt and into the hearts of those that needed the help but didn’t have the heart left to ask anymore, too tired and disheartened to know what to do anymore. It was there, during some of my darkest days, that I found some of my passion and my voice began to get louder.

I began to evaluate how I wanted my life to touch others, how did I want to change my world? What did I have in me to give back and how? Essentially, I was back to those small questions of who am I and what are my beliefs? I knew I wanted to help, I was a helper by nature. Well I also had a voice; so how could I use that to help? It seems that the people most influential in my life helped me find my voice. Some of you may be surprised but I am the shy one in my family, I know it’s SHOCKING!

I was never pressured into joining the Elks by anyone in my family, it was always just presented as an option. My Uncle Gordon asking if I was interested, usually about once or twice a year. In July 2013 my Dad, Jim McLeod, became the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Elks of Canada, and I decided to join as an official member of the Elks of Canada. In November of 2013 I joined the Fort Saskatchewan Elks Lodge #399 as their first female member. My Uncle Gordon was my sponsor that night and my Dad did my official obligation. I hit the ground running and I’m sure my fellow members are still wondering what whirlwind had blown through their doors. I found my voice in 2014 when I joined the National Membership Committee and began to enact change within the organization at a national level. The Elks has helped me grow in so many ways. Being able to connect personally and professionally with so many and help families across Alberta and Canada makes me proud to be a member of such an amazing organization.

I firmly believe that this would not have been possible without the strong family roots that I have formed around the Elks of Canada, roots that tied me to a strong foundation and helped me to develop my sense of self. It helped me to shape the idea of how I could leave my mark on anything that I did. From something as small as holding open the door for the person behind me to planning a BBQ to fundraise for a community project. I know that I want my life to matter and for it to touch at least one person beyond myself before I am done with this life.

It is said that when Robin Williams died, Steve Martin called him "a mensch." I never met him but can only surmise that everyone that met him probably considered Robin Williams to be a very funny man and amazingly kind. Mr. Martin calling him a mensch is the greatest of eulogies because a mensch is a person who is “decent and honorable, a person of high integrity who has genuine caring for his fellow man”. A mensch always looks for an opportunity to do good in life, to be of help to others and to give without regard for anything in return. A mensch doesn't cut corners in their relationships with people. You always feel safe in the presence of a mensch because you instinctively know that they will not deceive you, undermine you or diminish you in any way.

That is the Legacy I want to leave behind when I am gone from this earth, that is what I want my children, friends and those closest to me to say, that I “always looked for an opportunity to do good in life, to be of help to others and to give without regard for anything in return”. That to me is #ElksProud.                                                                                                                           

Sister Meghan Pollard
Fort Saskatchewan Elks Lodge #399
Member Services Committee