The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. – Helen Keller
What does that mean?
As is often the case, this is a shortened version of a longer quote. “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
Yes, we all want, or have wanted at one time or another, to be the hero. We have wanted to be the one who completes the mighty shove which moves the world forward. The topic of our heroic epic may be different, but we have all been there, right?
The quote acknowledges that heroes exist, and that they do move the world with their mighty shoves, it also reminds us that there are others who help. It says that each of us contribute a small portion, and the aggregation of all those small pushes, both ours and those of others, also move the world.
The quote encourages us to not forget our contribution. It urges us to continue, in our own humble way, to contribute to moving the world. Even if it’s hard for us to measure, our contributions do make a difference. And that effort, the quote says, is our chief duty in life.
Why is persistence important?
We’ve all been there. We do something, and it seems like nothing changed. We help someone, but the world doesn’t seem to be any better off for it. We put our effort in, we do our daily work, we give our tiny push, but we see nothing come of it. Then we see a hero, and the world changes visibly.
Perhaps it was with an amazing feat of strength, an amazing feat of skill, a brilliant idea, or just being in the right place at the right time. However, for most of us, that never happens in real life. However, I imagine we all have been heroes, if only for a moment, to someone in need.
Think about the time you helped someone with directions. It may not have seemed like you did much, but it may have helped the person get to a meeting on time, and make (or save) a contract vital to their business. What seemed insignificant to you may have made a huge difference for someone else. We just couldn’t see it.
Where can I apply this in my life?
In all likelihood, we already have. Many times. As both the worker and as the hero. An acquaintance was a hero when a small child was struggling in the water. The child was close to drowning, and was saved. The kid just got out and went on their way, not realizing what had really just happened.
But even without being recognized for it, they knew that they had moved not the whole world, but certainly that persons world. While what you have done may not be as obvious, but you have helped someone somewhere. Even something as small as an encouraging word can really change the life of a person. You may not know it, but you just moved their world.
I never expected this blog to go anywhere, it started as an expression of my frustration with all the little quotes flashing around Twitter. They were being sent without any context, and repeated by people with no knowledge of what the quote meant, nor any idea how to apply it to their daily life.
I expected I might go for a few weeks, perhaps a few months, and then I would be done. However, I’ve been going for over two years now, and have published well over 750 posts. The feedback I have received has told me that I have made a difference in the lives of a few people here and there. And that’s enough for me.
What have you done that has made a difference? We all have our tiny pushes which we do daily or weekly. But what about your acts of heroism, even if it is on a personal scale? What have you done to help someone become a better person, to guide, teach or otherwise improve their life?
Even if it didn’t happen immediately, you’ve helped. The person you tutored in school, who finally understood a subject that was vexing them. The person you encouraged at the park or on the street, who finally finished what was giving them difficulty. What have you done, and who have you helped?
We can all be the individual contributors, providing our tiny pushes. We can also be a hero, providing a mighty shove for a person from time to time. But the thing I find most important in this quote is that persistence is the key to progress.
If we all keep doing our part, however small it may seem, we will make a difference. It might take time, but when you add up seven billion tiny pushes, you’re going to make a difference. If not today, then perhaps tomorrow. If not then, perhaps when the people you helped become heroes to others.
But the world will change, provided we are persistent.