Greatness

January 21, 2009

 

Mahatma Ghandi and his spinning wheel

Mahatma Ghandi and his spinning wheel

 

 

I watched the film “Ghandi” last night– tears in my eyes throughout. Talk about a LIFE. That man truly lived and achieved. I oftentimes tend to think we as Americans are far too comfortable in our living to actually claim any kind of heroism. And yet, the simple burden of daily living is in itself a heroic feat for the strongest or weakest among us. Despite America being a wealthy nation, wealth somehow does not always take away the suffering of a hard life. Wealth does not always bring confidence or convince us of the idea that we have inherent worth or that we are capable of achieving greatness. Wealth does not buy greatness.

This brings me to something my sister-in-law said once; that only a very small number of people have actually “evolved” on their own. The rest just follow. True. How many of us can create the internet? How many of us can discover the space-time continuum? Or inspire millions through non-violent civil disobedience to regain control of their country. How many of us will refuse to sit in the back of the bus one more time? And yet, there is the smallest of acts within us that are created every day that, despite their smallness, help humanity evolve as a whole.

We do not evolve from single acts of greatness only, but from that which happens so slowly and deliberately that we do not recognize it as change until it is long past. 

I think too often that we define greatness by great individuals in history. The reality is, greatness is small. It’s slow. It can sometimes only be measured in the simplest acts of kindness, or by the love we show our children every day and the devoted consistency in which we build our homes and raise our families. 

As I watched the inauguration of Barack Obama I thought, this is a great man who will achieve great things, things that average people could never imagine. And yet, the span of over a million and a half people, gathered together on the mall helped me realize that no man’s greatest comes alone. That we are all connected and every act, no matter how big or small, has its own merit or greatness. Even in physics, “subatomic particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but can only be understood as interconnections between the preparation of an experiment and the subsequent measurement.” (Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra) 

I have hope in this smallness and I see that my life has worth and value. I may never be a president or save the world. But every meal I put on the table for my family, ever hug, ever kiss is but a building block in my own legacy of achievement. Every time I choose to listen to my children instead of yelling at them I am creating a chain reaction of kindness and goodness. But it takes strength, courage, faith and having the confidence and self-respect to believe that greatest is not defined outside but rather, within. That greatness is not so much in one, but in the interconnectedness of us all.

 

We can do no great things; only small things with great love.

-Mother Theresa

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