In The Presence of Greatness

Have you ever been in the presence of greatness? I have, and when it happens there is no doubt. Now you may wonder who or even how one ends up in the presence of greatness or what exactly is the presence of greatness. I was fortunate, it happened when I was 16 and to this day, I can give you the scene as it played out, the aura and the feeling it left in me.

I have met a lot of people who have achieved greatness or success. When my daughter was about 10 the Prime Minister of Canada was coming to our city for a fundraiser. She indicated she would really like to meet the Prime Minister. “OK,” I said, “let’s go.”

I knew where the fundraiser was being held and how the Prime Minister would arrive, so my daughter and I waited along with a small crowd to get a look at the man. As my daughter was tiny, everyone let her get to the front of the crowd and I stood behind her. Sure enough, his car pulled up outside and in he came, along with his security detail.

“Do me a favour,” I said to my daughter. “Hold your right hand out, like you are going to shake his hand. ” She did.

As the Prime Minister approached, I gently pushed my daughter forward. She stumbled, hand held out with a big smile, the Prime Minister smiled at her, shook her hand and walked off to the fundraiser. She was in heaven.

But there was nothing, no greatness felt. The feeling might have been there, just like it might have been there when I have met other successful people, but  it just didn’t register. I should mention I have never met Muhammed Ali, so I’ll never know what that honour might have felt like. But, I have had the absolute honour of being in the presence of true greatness, and everything else is based on that experience.

Janet and her horse

As a kid, I loved horses; I never could afford one but loved them. I managed to talk people, at 11,  into letting me ride their horses in return for cleaning stalls. It allowed me to earn money, open my first bank account, work hard, and the reward was they started paying for me to attend horse shows.  I won many competitions, regional prizes and even won some prize money that paid my sponsors a bit of money.

One day when I was 16, I made it to a big competition at a large horse show in Ontario, Canada. It was rumoured that a young horse was in the stable, having arrived from Europe and he was destined to become a major fixture on the international show jumping scene. I think he was about 2 at the time, had not yet competed, was not in the horse show that day, just chilling in his stall. I had to get a look at him.

I wandered into the stable, walked to the right, with stalls on both sides I looked in each to see if this horse was really there. 3 stalls in I found him. His stall was huge, 3 times the usual size of a horse stall, and he was standing length-wise at the back of the stall, by his window. He didn’t move, other than to twist his head toward me and look at me. The two of us just stood there looking at each other, and it seemed as if all sound stopped, and time stood still.

Statue of Big Ben

His aura and energy filled the stable, a feeling I have never felt before. He projected elegance, humility, confidence, but more than anything this great sense of being.  He, doing nothing but standing there, was greatness. I thought myself in the presence of a champion, a champion who had yet to compete… But I knew, at that moment, in that experience, God does not create us all equal. God had given this horse incredible gifts and the people around him would develop those gifts to showcase the greatness within.

The horse was Big Ben. Several years later he started competing in show jumping competitions and became a world champion, known internationally, statues to his memory. Now, having passed, he is in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

I am sure there are people out there who have that greatness, I haven’t met them yet, but when I do meet someone with all the qualities of Big Ben, I will know. I look forward to the honour of meeting them.


About the Author

Janet Sheriff

An innovative entrepreneur, Janet brings her extensive experience in all aspects of strategic planning, management, indigenous affairs and communications to start ups, new ventures and the mining & exploration sectors. Janet focuses her entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills and vision to create new opportunities, award-winning innovative programs and new ways of conducting business. Her strong commitment to community engagement, sustainability and inclusion provides her the proven ability to work effectively and respectfully in cross-cultural environments.