That may sound bold at best and false at worse, but that is why the goal of this two-part series on “The Greatness in All of Us” is to see and understand the simplistic truth in the belief that greatness is within the grasp of anyone who chooses to reach for it.
The goal is made difficult because greatness is often seen as the same thing as notoriety – someone who is generally known or talked about. That confusion leads to a flawed, fatalistic belief: unless I am famous, I cannot be great; I am not famous nor will I ever be, therefore I am not great, nor will I ever be great.
My response to that fatalism, in the words of a famous skeptic, is, “Bah, humbug!”
What is greatness? Greatness is the giving of oneself in loving service to another person(s), for his good, with the expectation of receiving nothing in return.
At its most basic level, greatness is one person serving one other person. It does not have to be one person serving hundreds upon hundreds of people, although it can be that.
At its most basic level, greatness is service or kindness shown in the most routine way. It does not have to rise to the level of the heroic, although it can.
At its most basic level, greatness goes unnoticed to the world. It does not have to garner the attention of the masses, but it can.
Greatness: An Example
In a Panther Pride* newspaper column, Loryn Teater, a student at Midlothian High School, writes about a great person: her mother.
“My momma has springy, curly hair that bounces with every step she takes. On her face is an almost permanent smile and a pair of laughing eyes.”
The bounce, the smile, and those laughing eyes were not products of an ideal childhood. “[Loryn’s mother] came from poverty … Her playground was outside in the streets that were filled with broken seashells and dangerous characters. She saw, heard and experienced things no little girl should.”
Despite that background, Loryn testifies, “One newspaper column isn’t enough to share every happy memory that I have with her, or tell you every time she’s made me laugh or held me when I cried. An entire newspaper couldn’t begin to describe how much I look up to her.”
One person. Nothing heroic. No notoriety. Yet, that mother – her name is not mentioned in the story – is a great person. If doubt remains, just ask Loryn.
The second blog in this two-part series further explains the relationship between greatness and notoriety.
*Midlothian High School student newspaper, December 14, 2011