The Way I Was

Everyday Greatness

“The great commitment is so much easier than, and can all too easily shut our hearts to, the ordinary everyday commitment.”  Dag Hammerskjöld

I feel noble when I make sacrifices for something great–charities or campaigns, ministries, missions, art, a quest, a pilgrimage, a career.

To make room for the everyday and ordinary, however, can feel annoying. When I’m worn out by the great things I’ve been doing, it requires commitment to do humdrum chores, exercise, eat and share wholesome food, or listen graciously to my loved ones’ everyday concerns.

 Here’s a stinger, the next sentence of the quote regarding greatness:

“A willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice can be associated with, and even produce, a great hardness of heart.”

The great commitment is easier, because it makes me feel important. But everyday commitments really matter. Truly great people don’t neglect them.

The “inspiring people” I’m blogging about have this in common: while they maintain a commitment to doing and being their best, they also keep an open heart to the duties and joys of everyday life. They are generous and humble. They take their turns doing the dishes.

This is not a picture of the diplomat, Dag Hammerskjöld; it’s a picture of a nice boy who volunteered to do the dishes after a big party, which is another great way to be a diplomat.

Quotations are from Dag Hammerskjöld’s book, Markings, first published in 1964. I recently read the original publication, borrowed from my library, but it’s still in print in a mass paperback version, as a spiritual classic.

Hammerskjöld was a Swedish diplomat & economist, Secretary General to the United Nations, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. His book of personal meditations was published after his death, and gives a poetic and quotable account of his self-scrutiny. Reading Markings is like watching a world-famous peace-maker as he looks daringly and critically into the mirror, while he struggles to feel worthy of his public success and tries to resists the pride associated with being great.

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