We supped over seafood and salad and in the course of conversation, she introduced the idea of a list.

“Well it was on my list, so I did it,” she said, wrinkling her nose as I slurped an oyster.

“Your list?”

“Yes. I have a list of things I must do in my life, and eating a raw oyster was on it, so I did it. I didn’t like it. I can’t stand the slimy things.”

Ahhh. The list. She also let herself be passed up in the student section at a college football game because it was on the list and dared to try other things that stumped, scared or otherwise repelled her, simply because it was on the list.

And so I left in the dark of the night, plucked the parking ticket off my car, and wondered what I would put on my list if I had one. I guess there is an informal, unspoken one already in effect.

Hiking alone in mountains unfamiliar to me. Check. Traveling to unknown destinations solo. Check. Eating in a restaurant alone. Check. Lots of alone things. Getting divorced without guarantee of future love. Check, check, check.

But would I sky-dive? Nope. Water-ski? Done it. Downhill slalom? No longer of interest. Hike the continental divide? Not even remotely. So what would I put on my list? And what would you put on yours? And what is the purpose of having such a list, of crossing things off, for the supreme satisfaction of having done them?

Last week, the founder of The Gap died. Don Fisher was 81 and succumbed to cancer. When he left this world, his business brainchild had reached the post of one of the world’s largest apparel retailers, with 3,145 stores and $14.5 billion in sales last year.

And while I grew up on jeans, plaids and khakis from this find-it-everywhere store, I never realized the meaning behind the name. From the Wall Street Journal obituary:

Mr. Fisher wasn’t known as a merchant or fashion designer. Rather, he propelled his business with an intense competitive drive and a passion for real estate…Gap became known as an iconic brand that made it the most profitable clothier in the U.S. during the 1990s. He set out to create a new kind of clothing store to fill “The Gap” he saw in retailing.

I am fascinated by his business pluck and the concept of spinning a brand out of the void. I am also impressed with his relative anonymity and his dedication to charity.

Mr. Fisher and his wife of 56 years, Doris, used their wealth to build an extensive art collection and support education. The pair has donated more than $100 million to the Knowledge is Power Program charter schools and Teach for America.

What is on your list? And what legacy are you leaving? Does anything you do make a difference?


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