Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service. – Martin Luther King, Jr
What does that mean?
A slightly longer version is as follows: “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
Think about that for a moment. We can’t all be famous, not in the traditional sense. For if we were all famous, famous would be the new normal, and we’d be chasing something else. To be famous is to be recognized as someone special, for whatever reason.
However, the quote says we can all be great. It says that greatness can be achieved by service. I would presume service to others, or to mankind. The longer version finishes with a recommendation for a heart full of grace and a soul made of love.
That is kind of poetic, but I like it. Service to others is certainly easier when your heart and soul are full of grace and love. And given what is going on in the lives of so many ‘famous’ people, I think I’d much rather work on being great, not on being famous. How about you?
Why is service important?
It’s easy to be the center of our own world. It’s easy to forget that there are others who need help. By taking time out of our busy day, we can shift the focus back to what we have in common with those less fortunate. But how do we define less fortunate?
That is, to me, a very interesting question. Most people measure misfortune with money. People with enough money to buy food, and live in a decent house must have it made. What help do they need? Yes food and shelter are important, but there are other needs. How can you help them?
With a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love, we should be able to help the lonely, regardless of their income bracket, right? What about those who may have money, but don’t have great health? They have needs, and we can be of service helping them as well, right?
The big thing, for me, is that service not only helps the person designated as being in need, but it also helps us. What they gain is usually easily defined, based on what you did to help them, or the need you filled. What we get as the helpers is harder to define, but I believe it goes back to keeping our hearts and souls filled with grace and love.
Where can I apply this in my life?
As usual, I would urge you to start as locally as possible. In your own house or in your circle of friends and acquaintances. Is there someone on your block who either doesn’t have a car or isn’t able to drive? Do they need a ride to the grocery store or to a doctor appointment?
Who do you know who has needs? What can you do to help them with those needs? We all know someone who needs some help. Perhaps an afternoon of yard-work, or a little vacuuming in the house. Perhaps you could bring a meal to them, perhaps home made, or take-out from their favorite restaurant.
These things don’t have to be an every day occurrence, but hopefully they happen more than once a year. Somewhere between these extremes, you can find balance. Service should never be a chore, or something you dread. If it is, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Done properly, it should be a joy, something you look forward to with anticipation instead of dread. What are some of the things you’ve done to help others in the past which fill you with happiness? What might your favorite form of service be?
Some people are very people oriented, and want to work directly with people. That’s not me. I prefer to work behind the scenes most of the time. We each have our preferences, and taking them into account can help make your service time enjoyable.
What did you come up with, when you considered other people you already know? Hopefully you came up with a few ideas. If you need more ideas, you can look a little farther afield for things to do. What local charities cater to your favorite group of people?
Is there a shelter for homeless, for victims of abuse, or even pets? What about groups who provide companionship, simple (non-medical) help, or help connect people with food? My mom is very involved with Meals on Wheels, as an example. Is that something you would like to do?
There is no real limit to what we can do to help others. Service to others is how we pay the rent, in a spiritual sense. Besides, who wants to be famous when greatness awaits?
What can you do to help?