True greatness

True greatness

What is true greatness? History frequently assigns the word to plunderers who built large empires. Time has proved how futile this is, for we do not remember their deeds with admiration.

Their titles are just sound and fury. How then do we define greatness? Far from being might and power, it consists of qualities that make life on earth meaningful. Chief among them are courage, compassion, love and service, attributes best explained by quoting examples.

The truly great distinguish themselves not only with their achievements but also with their indomitable courage in the face of trouble. Take the case of Roger Bannister who set the running tracks ablaze by being the first to run a mile under 4 minutes. The 85-year-old Briton recently confessed to a degenerative nervous disease. A neurologist himself, he said, 'I am having trouble walking. But I am being well looked after and I don't intend letting it interfere.'

Few can equal Father Damien, a Belgian priest, in showing compassion. He devoted himself in 1873 to the care of lepers, quarantined in the island of Molokai, Hawaii. He dressed their ulcers, constructed a reservoir, built homes and made coffins. Then, as he had expected, he fell victim to the dreaded disease and died.

For selfless love, Irena Sandler stands out. When the Nazis overran Poland they walled the Jews into ghettos. Irena registered herself as a nurse and supplied food and medicines. Even more phenomenal, she transported 2,500 children, hidden in sacks, to safety. The Nazis found out, tortured her and broke both her legs. When war ended, Irena devoted herself to reuniting the children with their families. Poverty and blindness did not stop a villager, Durlaba Naik, living in Gunduparasi, Bihar, from serving society.

There was an acute shortage of water. Naik knew that a tank would be the answer. No one listened. So, blind though he was, he selected a spot and dug for 25 years. When the tank was finally ready for use, Naik presented it to the village free of cost. Many more examples can be quoted. But even these few tell us much about greatness. Martin Luther King summed it up well, 'Everybody can be great because anybody can only need a heart full of grace.'
DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)