Everything We Leave Behind Is a Statement About Who We Are
David and Arlene Mitchell, married for 34 years, have a beautiful home in Arden Hills. A guest enters and immediately feels welcome. When we visited David and Arlene, that glowing kindness we felt right away continued as they talked about their lives and how they want to be remembered someday.
“We both had good careers,” Arlene said. “We live very comfortably. We were blessed with good minds that allowed us to have good jobs, and without any real major setbacks.”
The couple, now retired, spends much of their time volunteering. It is clear to anyone who talks to David and Arlene about their time and assets that they feel it is a natural and essential thing to do to give back. “I read somewhere that everything we do or say is a statement about who we are,” Arlene said. When I read that, it was such an ah-ha moment.”
When David’s father passed away, he was the executor of the estate, and he spent more than two years sorting out the will. In the process, he had the chance to review his grandfather’s distribution. Back then, David said, his grandfather left 50 dollars to the church. “Reading 50 dollars,” David said, “I felt that was too little. My grandfather died with over 500 acres of farm land. And my dad didn’t leave anything at all to charity.” This really sat with David and how he thought about what he wants to leave behind.
David and Arlene planned their giving with a fixed percentage of their assets to go to charity. This fixed percentage is divided among three charities.
“Food, clothing and shelter,” Arlene said. “If you don’t have the basics, then you can’t get to anything else. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy—it’s only after you know where your next meals are coming from or you’re confident you have a place to sleep at night that you will be able to work on higher things.”
They identified an organization for each that would do the best work in each issue. For food, Arlene and David chose Second Harvest Heartland.
“How my assets are distributed when I leave this world is my last statement of who I am and what I value,” Arlene said. “It’s the last thing I get to say about my values. I want it to be a word of generosity and open-heartedness. I’m part of a larger community. That’s what this means to me—my family is not just blood, my family is community.”
“We all like to think we’re going to live a really long time,” Arlene said, “But things happen. I’ve heard some people find it really scary because they have to contemplate their death. It’s never hit me that way. I think of it as getting my last word.”