The dictionary definition of greatness is: The quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent. But what does this really mean? In order to be great, does one already have to be well-known? Does one have to stand out so that everyone knows who they are, or what they have done? That seems to be what the definition says.
But in my mind at least, that leaves way too many people out. To me, greatness is a matter of character. One can be a great person, a person who exudes greatness, without even being known by others. It is more a matter of actions, not one of recognition. Greatness is a matter of doing what needs to be done, even when there is no personal benefit. It falls in the same category as heroism. Pushing forward even if the odds are against one, but it goes beyond this. Some times even the simplest of deeds can mark one as a great person.
A little girl has lost her parents and is crying on a street corner. A notable man, say the governor of the sate, complete with his entourage, considered great by many, just whisks on by the child, more “important” things to do and a tight schedule. A homeless man notices the child, helps her smile to return, then taking her hand helps find her mommy and daddy. In this scenario, who has achieved greatness? Is it the well-known busy man who is in the view of many, yet ultimately only concerned with his own power? Or the lost soul who hears the cry of a child?
So many of us seek to achieve greatness. We want to be the star, or the best in our field. The celebrity. The person that EVERYONE knows. The rich one. The powerful one. Somehow our society has equated these concepts with the worth of a person. We see them as somehow being better people, just because they stand out. Sadly too often they prove to be other than that, then we revile them and find ourselves disappointed because they did not meet our expectations. Maybe if we allowed them to be human instead of visions of greatness, we would be less disappointed if they fail. This is not to say that many such people are NOT great, but their greatness stems from WHO they are, and how they act, not from their position; nor from the expectations of others.
Look around you closely. I would be willing to bet that we all know many great people, who work in the background, not seeking acclaim, but still the essence of what it really means to be great. I think it is time we recognize some of these people for a change. Maybe if we start recognizing true worth, the world will start getting its act together again.