Greatness

When I think of greatness, I think of a family friend Ms. Poon. She had an ordinary existence. During my childhood our family would visit her during Chinese New Year in her cramped little apartment. My sister and I would say greetings to her in exchange for sweets and a red packet of money. In our brief encounters, she was always full of smiles and had a larger than life demeanor, but otherwise she seemed like any other loving grandmother.

But her story is nothing short of remarkable. She was a rare college graduate in revolutionary China. She suffered war and poverty. Arriving in Hong Kong, she dedicated her life to the betterment of her family despite many personal difficulties. She took a job as a high school history teacher and in that capacity she touched many lives, educating and lifting up a generation of young women in Hong Kong. Her daughters and grandchildren would go on to become successful community leaders, allowing her spirit to reach far and wide.

Because of her dedication to those around her, her life was far greater than the sum of the personal frustrations she experienced. She transcended her suffering, strove for truth, gave abundantly to both those who were more fortunate and less fortunate than her. She became a leader amongst men, not because of the network she grew or the titles she won, but because of the humble and magnanimous way she lived. It is only logical that she is so loved, so admired by those who knew her, having spent her life serving as a light in the wilderness, enlightening souls and illuminating truth.

Basking in her afterglow since her recent passing has given me fresh impulse to become a better person. Her life and many other lives like hers are reminders that greatness does not reside in the abundance of possessions or recognition or even accomplishments. Rather greatness comes from within. It is a largeness of spirit that forms the measure of a person. This largeness is the most important trait one can develop, and it is one truly worth striving for.