The Great and the Insignificant

Over the past week, I have been thinking of George Washington, George Goodykoontz, Albert Einstein, Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, George Washington Carver, Ernest Hemingway, and so many more people I could hardly list them all here. I was thinking of a vegetarian in India who changed the world. I thought of a little old lady who lived in India and didn’t have two pennies to rub together, yet kings and presidents bowed to her. She spent her life taking care of the poor. I thought of a woman named Ann at the library sharing history with her daughter. I thought of people famous to the whole world, and people of whom I may be the only person in the whole world who still remembers them.

English: George Washington Carver, American bo...

English: George Washington Carver, American botanist and inventor, at work in his laboratory Français : George Washington Carver, botaniste américain et inventeur, au travail dans son laboratoire Original caption: Series VII.1, Photographs, Box 7.1/3, file “II. Photographs–Carver, George Washington,” USDA History Collection, Special Collections, National Agricultural Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought of a Medal of Honor winner who once told me, “A hero is a coward who got cornered.” I also thought of another Medal of Honor winner, but he didn’t get to meet the president, his widow did though. He was the first submariner awarded the Medal of Honor.

English: The Medals of Honor awarded by each o...

English: The Medals of Honor awarded by each of the three branches of the U.S. military, and are, from left to right, the Army, Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My curse is an overriding need to analyze. I analyze everything, always looking for patterns and differences, always trying to understand this amazing world and everything in it. As I thought of these people, I realized they all had something in common. With the possible exception of George S. Patton, none of these people sought greatness. (I do not believe greatness can be thrust upon anyone, the individual cannot control that.) They also had something else in common.

Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard, CO, 30th Inf. Regt., a ...

Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard, CO, 30th Inf. Regt., a prominent figure in the second daring amphibious landing behind enemy lines on Sicily’s north coast, discusses military strategy with Lt. Gen. George S. Patton. Near Brolo. 1943. (Army ) Exact Date Shot Unknown . NARA FILE #: 111-SC-246532 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1024 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They all had a knowledge and an acceptance of that knowledge that was so much a part of them as to be unnoticeable by the rest of us. We all know our time is limited, we do not know how limited, but it is limited. Some of us will reach old age like Mother Teresa; some of us will never leave our youth like James Dean. All these people, these great men and women, the famous and the obscure, they accepted their own mortality, in their own way, and moved forward with it. It is this clock, this kitchen timer, always counting down, always there, always ticking, that drove their passions. This clock is with all of us, normally subdued by our conscious, occasionally coming to the surface at times when we feel great loss.

Cropped screenshot of James Dean in the traile...

Cropped screenshot of James Dean in the trailer for the film East of Eden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This embracing of mortality allowed these people to concentrate their passion in one field of endeavor. Like da Vinci and Patton most had many fields of interest they were good at (also driven by their own mortality), but one area captured their passion, their drive, and their energies. This one area was larger, at least to them, than they were. They accomplished things that many of us felt could not be accomplished. However, their greatest accomplishments were not walking on the moon, inventing the light bulb or breaking the four-minute mile; their greatest accomplishment was to show us what we are capable of. Us. Common, obscure, average human beings, we can do things we never thought we were capable of; and we know that because someone has done those things before us. These great men and women have influenced us, and helped us to believe in ourselves, they blazed the trail for us.


Nicolai Tesla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yet, to the people who knew them best, they were still just Nicolai or Amelia, that little kid down the street with the runny nose. Long after their greatness was proclaimed by the world, did those who knew them best see them as anything other than that little kid down the street. Most of them had one or more people who did recognize something in them and encouraged them, but many knew only their own encouragement until long after greatness was proclaimed by the world. Some even had to endure ridicule and mockery, and yet they strove forward, always forward, even when they were the only one who believed in themselves. At times even this self-belief and self-encouragement failed them, yet they pushed forward. Thank God they did, they gave us electricity and penicillin, telephones and blood transfusions, cars and sonograms. They touched the lives of every one of us.



You touch the lives of hundreds of people every day, and you probably do not know it. The clerk at the gas station you say “Thank You” too. The unhappy kid in line at the store you smile at. The person in traffic who is begging to be flipped-off, but you don’t. You too have your own passions. Maybe you are one of the lucky few who has someone to encourage you. They encourage you because they see the greatness within you (Next time you see that person, do something for me. Give that person a hug or a handshake and say “Thank you for being you.”) Even if you do not have the support of someone, that greatness is there just the same. Did Mother Theresa invent technologies or discover new drugs? No. She comforted the lowest of those among us and showed them that they were as great as the greatest among us.

English: Mother Theresa with Dr. S. Brahmochary

English: Mother Theresa with Dr. S. Brahmochary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a small child John Alexander showed me an easy and quick way to sketch a sailing ship. You see John taught art to small classes of children at Silver Lake Elementary School. Forty years later small children are still learning how to draw ships from John though they have never met him. Friday my daughter showed me her drawing of a sailing ship. These small children today receive John’s gift through others who sat in those classrooms so long ago. So, you see we all influence more people than you could ever imagine.

The Mirror

Look in the mirror to see another great person. The Mirror (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are great, even if you forget that. You too influence hundreds, thousands, and yes someday-even millions of people. Do not stop following what you like, do not ever stop pursuing your passions. Always believe in yourself, especially when others do not. Your influence will continue long after our time is over. You are great, and no one is insignificant.

Personal Note:

John, she draws just as you taught us. You would be proud. Thank you my teacher. Thank you my friend.


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4 responses to “The Great and the Insignificant

  1. Pingback: The Distance of Those Around « Kindredspirit23's Blog

  2. Thank you. Thank you for believing in me without having met me; thank you for seeing something in me that many haven’t; thank you for seeing that same thing in all of us; and, thank you for the idea of my post for tomorrow; I will leave a link to your site.