In the Scheme of Things
Jun 3, 2014
Will Anyone Know?
A few months ago, several "Rosies" were honored at the White House for their home front efforts during World War II. One of them was 91 year old Phyllis Gould. Like her honored companions, Gould was a "Rosie the Riveter" during World War II. In the 1940s three million women like her worked in plants as part of the war effort.
These women were nicknamed "Rosies" following a government marketing, "We Can Do It," campaign encouraging them to take factory positions building aircraft and weapons. Not only was their work essential to the war effort, but they were doing jobs considered for-men-only and did them well. That began to erode beliefs about what women could or should do.
When asked by a reporter why being honored at the White House was important to her, Phyllis Gould responded, "My descendants will know I was somebody." Her words got me thinking. Isn't that what we all want? To be somebody; to know our lives made a difference -- at least to someone? But, is it important to make a difference or have someone know about it? It seems to me, the celebrity craze and Facebook document-your-life as you go obsession is more about the latter than the former.
We get these confused. Being honored didn't make Phyllis "somebody." She was somebody by the work she did and the life she led, whether she was honored by the White House or not. There will always be the Rosa Parks, Helen Kellers, Wright Brothers, and Charles Dickens of the world whose names we know. But they didn't do what they did so future generations would know them.
The people who know and love me don't see my somebody-worth in what I do, but in who I am. My husband, son, daughter-in-law, granddaughters, family, and friends don't care if I write a New York Times best seller, accumulate status or money, invent products, win awards, or have thousands of Facebook likes. But, they do care how I live my life -- how I "show up" in the world, how I contribute in the deepest sense, and how I touch their lives.
Every day people make their own decision about being "somebody," and most often we never hear about them. They stand up to the bully, fight against social injustice, help the downtrodden, raise caring children, and lend helping hands. These "somebodies" make the world better by being in it. They operate with a philosophy akin to Lily Tomlin's words, "I said Somebody should do something about that. Then I realized I am somebody."
The names of generations and generations of somebodies who helped a stranger, risked their lives for another, sacrificed so others could benefit, stood up against wrongs, shared what they had to give, or lived with a compassionate and loving heart -- will never be known or remembered. To me, and in the big scheme of things, these are the somebodies we need to remember, in concept, if not in name. These people, by their lives and actions, made our lives better today -- the world more just, opportunities more possible, lives healthier, and a collective future more sustainable.
It seems to me, if you want to be somebody, you need to remember the people you know who make (or made) a difference in your life, and honor them with the best of legacies. Model their kindness, compassion, love, courage, generosity, or care in your own life, so you, too, can pass on a better world. In my way of thinking, you're somebody every time you choose to contribute to the bigger whole or make a positive difference in someone else's life.