”Great” men and women, those whose names are recorded in history and etched in our minds, are recognized as trailblazers, pathfinders, and inspirations for many of us whose contributions are not counted among the acts of the historically notable, not deemed worthy of recognition, especially in our own personal estimations.
Examples of such ”great” people – to pick only from more recent history for its more dynamic record of achievements and personalities through recorded interviews and video footage, making more immediate their impact and easier our identification through closer proximity and accessibility – include Mandela, King, Malcolm X, and Gandhi, to name only a very, very few. Their words, their ideas, their examples drive us toward higher visions of what is possible and pave roads of benefits for us to reap and enjoy.
What is not as apparent to us is the quiet, unsung examples and impacting imprint by those who were instrumental in shaping the historical notables by helping to mold their ideas, their visions, and their frames of action. These historically anonymous figures could have been a mother, a father, a grandparent, a teacher, a neighbor, a train conductor, or a kind shopkeeper. At any given point of interaction or observation the historical notables could have received a word of counsel, an account of ancestral integrity, or the illumination of a stranger’s act of kindness or display of courage. In numberless ways, the historical notables were affected by a thousand imprints made by family, neighbors, and strangers within their cosmos. And these anonymous ones were just as much a factor in the shaping of our world and directing of our history inasmuch as they played a contributory role productive of the known world of the historical notables whose lives and examples we turn to for inspiration and emulation.
What this tells us, then, is that by a million small acts and thoughts our world is shaped by us all. We never know if a courageous, honest or kind act, seemingly without witness, was in fact observed by a pair of eyes and recorded by an impressionable mind to be tossed into the recipe of outstanding character and ennobled mind.
As we are inspired and encouraged in our journey toward personal significance, impressed by the perseverance of Mandela, the vision of King, the fiery passion of Malcolm, the humility and integrity of Gandhi, and a thousand other imprints by notable men and women, let us remain focused on the qualities, the passions, the ideas that these individuals exhibited, embodied, and shared and not on the persons themselves lest we narrow our focus on the people who are here today and gone tomorrow and not on the intangibles of their being which live on eternally to fertilize the ground of imagination and initiative.
Because after all, we each have not a legacy to follow so much as an inheritance to increase and pass on to others in the cycle of increasing life and its fruits. Doing so, with or without the recognition and praise of others, will qualify us for entry into the hall of notables where anonymity and grace give a greater shine to the gold of our doings and the greatness of being.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself; do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” – Bruce Lee