Greatness as it should be.

What is greatness? How do you perceive it? Is it possible that society’s accepted idea of greatness is distorted and deceitful? I say yes.

When we look at ourselves and compare ourselves to society’s status symbols, the wealthy, the famous, those who are successful in business, we are doing a great disservice, not only to ourselves, but to those who look to us for guidance, namely our children. People talk about wanting to achieve greatness in their lives, or being destined for greatness. But you have to take a step back and realize what true greatness really is.

Greatness is not the doctor who schlubs to the hospital at three am to deliver a baby. Greatness is the doctor who schlubs to the hospital at three am to personally talk to the expectant mother whose baby is quickly dying and explain to her that he is not able to help her, instead of having the message delivered by another staff member, and getting her quickly and safely to another doctor who can help.

Greatness is not the ability to convince thousands of people to buy your product. Greatness is convincing one frightened, confused, and sick elderly woman to take her medication.

Greatness is not having the skill to crunch numbers and cut costs by 1/3. Greatness is the determination to continue to give your patients the same quality of care they need with 1/3 less resources.

Greatness is not writing a large check from your large bank account to send to a charity. Greatness is getting on a plane to Guatemala with no knowledge of the language or culture, to take on a two month project to bring water to a small town that has none, and then being inspired to continue taking on such projects all over the world while other girls your age are back home getting married and buying homes with white picket fences.

Greatness is not handing a five dollar bill to a person on the street. Greatness is hearing that person’s story and getting them to a place where they can get help and be safe.

Greatness is not boasting about your ability to overcome a hurdle in your life. Greatness is taking your story of struggle and triumph to those who are in the shoes you once wore and inspiring them to get help and make changes to better their lives.

If you are wondering why these particular examples, it’s because I have witnessed or experienced these acts of greatness. And they substantiate my views on the subject.

I don’t pretend to possess any amount of greatness myself, though I firmly believe I am destined for it. I know my heart and my heart’s desires, and they align perfectly with my idea of greatness. I do not labor under the delusion that there is any measure of greatness in raising children with special needs, at least no more than raising any other child.

I think, in order to achieve high levels of greatness, you must not only possess certain qualities, but you must act upon them and use them generously:

  • compassion
  • kindness
  • insight
  • strength of character
  • selflessness
  • honesty
  • humility
  • love
  • laughter
  • courage
  • commitment

Oh there are more, but you get my point. When I think of greatness, I don’t think of fame, wealth, business success, material possessions. I don’t think that those things have to be mutually exclusive, of course. There are many great people who are also successful and possess the trait’s of society’s idea of greatness.

I’m a little late on my own path to achieving greatness. But even the greatest experience set backs. It’s the fact that they keep going, they are persistent in their pursuit of greatness. As I will be. We all know, event the best laid plans oft go awry. But I’ll get there, and I hope I can convince more people to join me in my kind of greatness.

Caitlin Terry and her team working in Uganda to help bring water to one of several towns she visited there.