By Dan Shearer, Editor, Green Valley News

It’s the kind of book you pick up and read for a few minutes then put down and think about. You’re not sure if you put it down because you needed to digest what you’ve just taken in or because it challenges you to your core, and you’re just not in the mood to feel uncomfortable. You never really come to a conclusion, but one thing is sure: You’ll pick it up again. Because you know it’s good for you, even if it hurts. That’s about the best way I know to describe “The Legacy Letters” by local author Carew Papritz. He published the book in 2013, and it hit a nerve. Years later, it’s still riding high — national awards, media interviews and lots of speaking engagements. It’s philosophy, common sense and passion dumped into a big bucket of good advice and hard truth. And don’t forget to throw in some forgiveness. The story is fiction, but you’ll forget that in the first few pages because you’ll figure out that you could have written it yourself. It’s the story of a man who divorces, finds out his ex-wife is pregnant with his twins, and decides to write his children letters about life after he learns he’s dying of cancer. His words are his legacy, and who doesn’t want to leave a legacy?

That’s the jumping off point — legacy. Not only what you’ll leave behind for those yet to come, but what you are doing now — a living legacy —that defines you. By now, most of us have figured out that career, wealth and name-dropping might make us more intriguing, but they don’t define us. Legacy goes a lot deeper, and often we don’t have it nailed down until we’re way beyond raising our kids, finished our careers and are deep into retirement. Papritz helps us figure it out because his message now comes with a simple assignment: Write a letter. He knows a lot of us are scared off by the prospect of putting pen to paper, so he lays it out clearly and succinctly. For example, with Valentine’s Day close at hand, Papritz helps us to write that most important of letters—a love letter. Take no more than five minutes to do it. Address it to a specific person — Dear “xxxxx.” List three things that your sweetheart does for you every day, and show gratefulness. Seeing words on a page prompts change. It’s gets us to thinking about what’s really important to us rather than just what’s expected of us. It speaks to who we are rather than who we’d like people to think we are. Sometimes it hints at who we want to be, and that’s not so bad, either. But words — words on paper — are important. So that’s your assignment. Get out a pen (not a computer) and think about your legacy. Not only in terms of death, but in terms of how you live now and what you want to do about it going forward.

Think about the things that have meaning in your life, and write them down. Maybe it’s music, animals, children, God. What are you passionate about? What holds your attention? What are you invested in because you wouldn’t be complete without it? What deserves your time and talent? Where does your money go? What do you care about?

Three things that say, “This is me.” Write them down. With honesty and clarity. Because this is the gift of what you believe and how you have lived to share with others. Your kids, grandkids, friends, relatives. Because words on paper are real. And you can hold them and pass them on to others. What’s ahead In coming months, we’ll be talking about legacy, future, and what you can give to your community in a series of columns by the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation. We’ll hear from Bob Phillips on Wednesday. He’s the director of the Non-Profit Learning Institute, and they think about legacy a lot. The goal is to get us thinking about what’s important to us and how we can support that now and in the future. The goal also is to drag us out of our comfort zones, see value in shaping the future, and making concrete and significant changes regarding our roles in and around Green Valley — and our responsibilities to others. So get cracking on the assignment, then read what Bob has to say Wednesday and in coming months as we all work toward the legacy of a better Green Valley.