Mrs. Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson, of Cleveland, Ohio, recently passed after having spent 106 years in this life. As a fellow church member, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Mrs. Johnson on numerous occasions and to share her philosophy of life. Just before her 99th birthday she reflected on her life in the following way, “I have had a wonderful life. God has been good to me. I’ve always tried to be a good Christian and help people in any way I could. The secret to a rich life is to have a passion for living, strong relationships with others and to be at peace with one’s self.”


I was touched by her passion for life and insatiable desire to help others. Even after age 100, she continued to be an avid reader, active with her sorority and church and even attended President Obama’s inauguration last year. During her professional life she was a social worker and served on numerous community boards. However, I was touched by her impassioned advocacy for those less fortunate and her appeals to friends and family to help.

Mrs. Johnson’s reach and touch was extensive. She was a role model for passionate living and helping others while on her journey. Her personal worth, charity and legacy are high. As we complete the celebration of the Easter season, it may be a good time to evaluate where we stand in these areas.

Personal worth

An individual’s personal worth is their sense of their own value or worth as a person. Personal worth can be determined by an individual’s personal contribution to their immediate family and friends, their contribution to the community at large and finally their contribution in the workplace. What is your personal worth? Do your contributions outweigh your liabilities? How will you increase your personal worth this year?


Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” People give to charities for a variety of reason—religious, preservation, health issues, cultural, freedom, etc. In many cases, our charity recognizes that there are people less fortunate that we are. The act of charity can be viewed as both counting our blessings and social responsibility. What charities or causes are important to you? How much will you give of your time, talent and treasure this year?

Your legacy

A personal legacy includes lessons, principles and insights you can offer about achieving personal and professional success. It’s your life story and gives your descendants and future generations a foundation and an anchor for their lives. How have you shared your legacy with your heirs? How many times this year have you sat down with the younger generation and shared your successes and failures? How will you share your legacy this year and in the future?

We each possess an incredible force and privilege—our own free will. We have the right and responsibility to choose a response to life’s challenges and opportunities. As we celebrate this Easter season, let’s be thankful for the gift of life that we have been given and be ever mindful of the opportunity we have to improve our personal worth, charity and legacy. Thank you Mrs. Johnson for touching my life.

(Michael G. Shinn, CFP, registered representative of securities and investment advisory services offered through Financial Network Investment Corp., member SIPC. Visit for more information or to send your comments or questions to (c) Michael G. Shinn 2010.)

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