Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is 'Greatness' Big? Or, Astronauts Are Overrated

My kids were watching PBS today, and somebody came on and started talking about "making big things happen," or something to that effect. They showed a kid dressed up as a doctor, another as an astronaut – you get the picture.

I've got no problem shooting for the stars, striving for mighty feats in whatever vocation or endeavor one chooses. Our country's rich history is full of stories of grand successes, from Ben Franklin to Andrew Carnegie to Neil Armstrong to Bill Gates. But our country was not built on "making big things happen." Which brings me to this question: What's wrong with striving to do little things, and doing them well?

The message of becoming great is pervasive in today's generation of children. "Believe in yourself!" and all that crap. The underlying message I get from it is that if you don't achieve great things – or at least try to achieve them – then you're nothing. You're a failure in a society that doesn't really grasp the true meaning of greatness.

Take me, for instance. Sure, I'd love to be a famous novelist or something, and yeah, I'm actually attempting to write a novel (it's hard!). In my profession, the normal course is for one to work his way up the ladder, eventually landing at a metropolitan daily or prestigious magazine (or these days, a major Web site).

I work at a 35,000 circulation small-town paper. Maybe that's where I want to stay. Society would largely frown on that, I believe. But if I love what I'm doing and do the best I can at it, that's worth more than trying to climb a ladder just because it's there.

I hope I can teach my kids that while chasing big dreams is OK, it's not the only option. Sometimes the big things we make happen appear little to the world. But those "little" things add up and make us stronger as a whole.

Today's Redneck Thought: "If you're doing what you're able/And putting food there on the table/And providing for the family that you love/That's something to be proud of." – Montgomery Gentry, "Something to Be Proud Of"