To insist on a guarantee that something you do when you set out to do it will be successful is to lop off the wild idea, the blooming vision before it’s formed. What we do matters because we are responsible for living up to our own ideals, whether anyone is watching or not. Whether we will be thanked or not.
Shortly after September 11, I led a ceremony in New York near Ground Zero. It was called Attending the City. Toward the end of it I asked everyone present to commit to making an act of beauty for the city within one week. The things people did were so personal! One woman adopted two cats that had belonged to someone who was killed the World Trade Tower fell. A man baked lasagna and took it to his local firehouse, which had lost several firefighters. A poet who had written a poem about the attack posted it on lampposts all around the city. These people acted because they were moved to do so, without hope of reward, simply because they cared about their city and how it was suffering, and they wanted to cheer it up.
What if, like the splash a pebble makes when it’s tossed into a pond, my actions could be beautiful, bold, and dramatic—whether anyone can imagine its trajectory or not?