Greatness is the giving of oneself in loving service to another person(s), for her good, with the expectation of receiving nothing in return.
Greatness is within the grasp of anyone who desires to reach for it.
In the figure below, “Numbers” is the few or many people who are impacted by an act of loving service. “Notoriety” is the few or many people who know about that act of love. The relationship between “numbers” and “notoriety” creates four quadrants within greatness.
In Quadrant I, the act of service impacts few people and few people know about it. An example is the story of the starfish thrower by Loren Eiseley.
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one … “
If an act of loving service makes a difference to just one person, it still makes a difference, and it most certainly matters to that one person.
In Quadrant II, many people are impacted by the loving act of service and, like in Quadrant I, few people know about it.
K-12 public school teachers often fall into this category on a daily basis and over the spans of their careers. Day in and day out, year in and year out, they perform countless acts of loving service for so many children … and more often than not, those acts go unrecognized.
Notoriety enters into Quadrant III: The act of service impacts a few people, but many people know about it. Many of our military heroes who earned Congressional Medals of Honor fit well here: great service for a handful of men with special recognition.
In Quadrant IV, many people are impacted by loving service and many people know about the service. Mother Teresa, winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, is an example of someone who had a world-wide impact and is well known for her loving acts of service.
Booker T. Washington wrote, “A person who goes on an undertaking with the feeling he cannot succeed is likely to fail. On the other hand, the individual who goes at an undertaking, feeling that he can succeed, is the individual who in nine cases out of ten does succeed.”
Let us give our children the hope and desire that greatness is within their grasps.