Greenleaf writes: Everyone – literally everyone – within his sphere of influence has the chance for true greatness. Whether one makes it or not depends on what one chooses to be, within the circumstances where one now is. The opportunity for true greatness is never in the greener pastures elsewhere. It is always where one now is and within the range of choices available there. Some kinds of achievement are more available in one place than another, but not personal greatness. This is of the moment, where one is at the moment.
What is the definition of ‘Great’? The following words are all listed as definitions for ‘Great’: first-rate, notable degree, highly significant, distinguished, noble character.
Greenleaf reminds us that each of us has choice – ‘having choice’ is one of Greenleaf’s recurring themes. Because we each have choice, we are, therefore, unconditionally response-able and responsible. We have the choice to be great. Really!? Well, it depends upon how one defines the term ‘great.’ The defining words I listed above make it possible for most of us, where we are, to choose to be great. Here are a few examples.
Many years ago I met a doorman at the Marriott in Cambridge, Massachusetts – Phil Adelman. When you met him you knew that he was ‘first-rate,’ ‘notable,’ ‘significant,’ ‘extra-ordinary’ (i.e. distinguished from the run-of-the-mill doormen), and of ‘noble character’ (he was truly ‘a character’). He ‘emotionally’ owned his role; it was – in his words – his ‘calling.’ When I was young our family (and many other families) would go to a certain restaurant simply because Mary Kelley was a waitress there. She continues to be the waitress (now wait-person) that I measure all other wait-persons against. I also knew an executive secretary that literally ran the business – if it weren’t for her the owner would not have been deemed a ‘successful businessman’.
My hunch is that many of us know such remarkable people. They are the role-models for us. Sadly, there are not as many of them as we need and, paradoxically, there are many more of them than we know about. Why? Simply because they live out Greenleaf’s description: They influence where they are. The parent, the teacher, the doorman, the waitress, the janitor, the secretary, the firefighter, the police officer, and the mailman (when I was young, we had a ‘great’ mailman that served our neighborhood and the man who has been delivering my mail for these past 15 years is another role-model for me).
Why don’t more of us choose to be great? Perhaps because we have adulterated the concept. Perhaps the concept has become meaningless for us post-modern folks. On the other hand, I think that many of us ‘know’ we are in the presence of greatness when we experience a great person – all we have to do is pause, step back, reflect a moment and we will recognize the great person.
Will I choose to be great? Will you, gentle reader, choose to be great?