This is probably my most favorite quote of all time. It's from the second book of one of my favorite series, The Farseer Trilogy: Royal Assassin, by Robin Hobb. It reminds me that everyone's life means something, no matter how exceptional and no matter how modest. Everyone is destined for greatness.
"...And then! And then, when certain ones were born, ones marked so clearly that history must recall them, they are called to step forward, to find their places in that future history. And they might further be exhorted to examine that place, that juncture of a hundred threads, and say, these threads, here, these are the ones I shall tweak, and in the tweaking, I shall change the tapestry, I shall warp the weft, alter the color of what is to come. I shall change the destiny of the world."
He was mocking me. I was certain of it now. "Once, in perhaps a thousand years, there may come a man capable of making such a great change in the world. A powerful King, perhaps, or a philosopher, shaping the thoughts of thousands. But you and I, Fool? We are pawns. Ciphers."
He shook his head pityingly. "This, more than anything else, is what I have never understood about your people. You can roll dice, and understand that the whole game may hinge on one turn of a die. You can deal out cards, and say that all a man's fortune for the night may turn upon one hand. But a man's whole life, you sniff at, and say, what, this naught of a human, this fisherman, this carpenter, this thief, this cook, why, what can they do in the great wide world? And so you putter and you sputter your lives away, like candles burning in a draft."
"Not all men are destined for greatness," I reminded him.
"Are you sure, Fitz? Are you sure? What good is a life lived as if it made no difference at all to the great life of the world? A sadder thing I cannot imagine. Why should not a mother say to herself, if I raise this child aright, if I love and care for her, she shall live a life that brings joy to those about her, and thus I have changed the world? Why should not the farmer that plants a seed say to his neighbor, this seed I plant today will feed someone, and that is how I change the world today?"
"This is philosophy, Fool. I have never had time to study such things."
"No, Fitz, this is life. And no one has time not to think of such things. Each creature in the world should consider this thing, every moment of the heart's beating. Otherwise, what is the point of arising each day?"