A drop in the ocean

How much does a drop in the ocean or even a cup from a cauldron signify? Not much, you would say.

A good and able king had the misfortune of finding his land in the grip of a severe drought. As often happens, it was the poor who suffered the most and went hungry. The king’s own granary did not hold much, but he knew that the rich in the kingdom could easily spare some of the grain from their own stock.

 He set up a big cauldron outside the palace gates and issued an order that from that evening the affluent must pour a cup of grain into it each day. Hoping to find it full the next morning, he went eagerly to inspect it. What was his surprise to see it absolutely empty! Everyone of those who could afford it had merely told himself that he was only one among a great many and that one cupful would neither be missed nor make a difference.

Mahatma Gandhi once pointed out, ‘Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it is important that you do it.’ It was an idea that that was well reflected in his picking up a handful of salt and thus galvanising the nation into action. Essentially we have to believe that it is through many little acts that big deeds are accomplished.

What does this mean in the life of lesser mortals? It is to believe that one kind word or deed can go a long way. Loving words from a stepmother can make a president out of a backwoods boy, as it did in the case of Abraham Lincoln. Encouraging words from a teacher can inspire students to reach great heights. Your vote in the election can tip the balance and bring down a corrupt government. Small deeds do not appear monumental but they carry a lot of invisible weight.

There is an incident in the life of Adolf Hitler that has aroused interest and become a subject of keen discussion. Hitler possessed undoubted talent for art. He decided to attend the prestigious Vienna Academy of Arts. In October 1907, at the age of 18, he withdrew all his savings and went to live and study in Vienna. His mother was, at this point of time, dying from cancer, but Hitler’s driving ambition to become an artist overcame his reluctance to leave his mother.

He took the entrance exam, quite sure that he would succeed. But he failed and was not admitted. He was told that ‘his drawings showed a lack of appreciation of the human form.’ It came like a bolt of lightning and, small though the setback was, turned him into a soldier who unleashed World War II and caused the death of millions.

The next time you are told or think of yourself as a drop in the ocean, consider these lines of the poet, Rumi, ‘You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.’

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