George W. is a big-hearted guy. And no, I'm not referring to the occupant of the White House. I'm referring instead to a mild-mannered former library clerk, George W. Kyle, who passed away recently at the age of 88.
He toiled at the Carpenter Branch of the St. Louis Public Library in Missouri for 46 years, never earning more than $20,000 per year. Most days, he enjoyed brown-bag lunches of bologna sandwiches and graham crackers. He walked or took the bus to work and lived a modest lifestyle. Was he just getting by? Apparently not. Mr. Kyle was socking much of his money away.
Upon his death, the library was presented with the largest gift ever from a former employee -- a whopping $351,000. Many were surprised by the gift, but many who knew him were not. They said that he really loved books and reading.
How do you and I stack up next to Mr. Kyle? When we become dust, what legacy will we leave behind? He will not be forgotten; his endowment fund will keep the library filled with new adult and children's books each year, all inscribed with a dedication to Kyle's parents.
Co-workers remember how he loved to joke and that he had a large book collection of his own. Clearly, he was working in the right place, with a passion for his "industry." Are we passionate about our own fields? If you work for Boeing, do you love aviation? If you work at Wal-Mart, do you love the hustle and bustle of retail? It helps make life more enjoyable if you work in a field you love. Plus, you're more apt to do well at your job if you care about the work.
We might serve ourselves well to take a few lessons from Mr. Kyle. Don't let your golden years just sneak up on you. Plan for them. Fail to do so, and you might run out of money long before the Grim Reaper knocks on your door. Think about your legacy -- will you pay for your grandchildren's education, perhaps? Or conserve 100 acres of wetlands? Maybe you could build a new playground in your town.
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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Wal-Mart. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.