Sunday, August 2, 2009

Everyday Greatness

Everyday Greatness, with commentary by Stephen R. Covey and compiled by David K. Hatch, is a wonderful and inspiring book. This is a collection of inspiring stories and quotations, some humorous, some serious. It contains stories by many of the great authors, celebrities, athletes, and leaders of our times, as well as everyday people who did extraordinary things in the face of adversity, drawn from Reader's Digest.
The book is broken into seven sections, with an introduction by Covey in which he defines the three choices that lead to everyday greatness: the choice to act, the choice of purpose, and the choice for principles. The sections of the book are Searching for meaning, Taking charge, Starting Within, Creating the Dream, Teaming with Others, Overcoming Adversity, and Blending the Pieces. These are further subdivided into three chapters named for characteristics, such as integrity, simplicity, and perseverance. Each chapter ends with some inspiring quotations about that subject by people such as Will Rogers, Abraham Lincoln, and others.
One good example of a story from this book is found in the section Searching for Meaning, in the chapter Attention.
"How Love Came Back by Tom Anderson
I made a vow to myself on the drive down to the vacation beach cottage. For two weeks I would try to be a loving husband and father. Totally loving. No ifs, ands, or buts.
The idea had come to me as I listened to a commentator on my car's tape player. He was quoting a Biblical passage about husbands being thoughtful of their wives. Then he went on to say, "Love is an act of will. A person can choose to love." To myself, I had to admit that I had been a selfish husband--that our love had been dulled by my own insensitivity. In petty ways, really: chiding Evelyn for her tardiness; insisting on the TV channel I wanted to watch; throwing out day-old newspapers that I knew Evelyn still wanted to read. Well, for two weeks that would all change.
And it did. Right from the moment I kissed Evelyn at the door and said, "That new yellow sweater looks great on you."
"Oh, Tom, you noticed," she said, surprised and pleased. Maybe a little perplexed.
After a long drive, I wanted to sit and read. Evelyn suggested a walk on the beach. I started to refuse, but then I thought, Evelyn's been alone here with the kids all week and now she wants to be alone with me. We walked on the beach while the children flew their kites.
So it went. Two weeks of not calling the Wall Street investment firm where I am a director; a visit to the shell museum, though I usually hate museums (and I enjoyed it); holding my tongue while Evelyn's getting ready made us late for a dinner date. Relaxed and happy, that's how the whole vacation passed. I made a new vow to keep on remembering to choose love.
There was one thing that went wrong with my experiment, however. Evelyn and I still laugh about it today. On the last night at our cottage, preparing for bed, Evelyn stared at me with the saddest expression.
"What's the matter?" I asked her.
"Tom," she said, in a voice filled with distress, "do you know something I don't?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well...that checkup I had several weeks ago...our doctor...did he tell you something about me? Tom, you've been so good to I dying?"
It took a moment for it all to sink in. Then I burst out laughing.
"No, honey," I said, wrapping her in my arms, "you're not dying; I'm just starting to live!"
To this, Covey adds, Tom "chose to love" by setting aside his Wall Street worries and personal interests to focus undivided attention on his family, chiefly Evelyn. What resulted provides further evidence that in focusing on individuals--particularly those we love the most--we often make the most meaningful and lasting impact. In Evelyn's case, she was so surprised by the attention that she was receiving that she thought something must be wrong--even had thoughts that she might be dying. She turned out to be just fine, but there are many people in the world who are dying for a little attention. See if you can find them and cure them of what ails them."
Everyday Greatness is a wonderful and inspiring book. It would be a great gift for anyone, but especially anyone going through a trial such as illness or a recent loss. It would also be a great gift for someone graduating or starting a new venture in life.

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