“Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” – George Bernard Shaw
I thought of this saying by Shaw after making yesterday’s post about Nelson Mandela and his life of making a difference in the lives of others. As I wrote yesterday, many of the ways that we can all make a difference in the lives of others are very small and may seem inconsequential at the time; many are things that must be done.
I disagree with part of Shaw’s second sentence. I believe that one can find happiness is doing what must be done, even if what must be done is mundane or distasteful work. The best examples of finding greatness in doing what must be done are probably the countless family caregivers who toil away, many times in thankless environments, taking care of people who can no longer care for themselves. In most cases the patients are relatives and loved ones who may even be incapable of recognizing the effort involved and saying thanks. In some cases the people being cared for may even be hostile or nasty towards their caregivers. That can make what must be done even harder.
One must try very hard sometimes to find the happiness that come out having done a thankless job well. I guess we call that self-satisfaction. I have not been put in the position of being a caregiver very often and certainly not for extended periods of time. On those occasions, when the job was done for the day or week or whatever, I have found it to be a very warm and pleasant feeling of accomplishment that is very different from that of having finished a task or project at work.
I am reminded as I write this of the life of a very famous caregiver to the poor of India – Mother Teresa, the Catholic Nun who founded a religious order in India to help the poor. Who can ever forget thet frail looking little woman (now well on her way to Sainthood) who happily toiled away everyday of her adult life doing what must be done for the poor in her care. That was greatness.