Thursdays are for throwbacks, and to start this Thursday column off, we are going to begin with a DOUBLE throwback: One personal and one from 1820. I know! I’m excited too.
I had an English teacher in high school who was one of those women you instantly looked up to. She was confident and wise and genuinely wanted you to do well; one of those women that didn’t even have to try to be a “strong, independent woman” – she just WAS. She had us research a famous person from history who said something brilliant. I was given Florence Nightingale. I was one of those relatively mediocre students that didn’t fully reach her potential but tried just hard enough to keep her parents and teachers happy. I remember not caring about the short essay I was supposed to write or about what Florence Nightingale did really, but her WORDS jumped out at me. And I remember recognizing my complete mediocrity and the fact that I hadn’t really done anything with my life yet.
“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.”
We are a generation of sayers; not doers. We have opinions about everything, but very few of us get off our butts to DO anything – to CHANGE anything. We all talk big talk about the latest uproar on Facebook or how awful it is that someone has a certain opinion or blah blah blah, but I’m not sure that does much more than give Nicole and I something to rant about over Hawaiian pizza and a bottle of wine.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that we can express ourselves without fear and communicate so easily with each other. It’s incredible that we can educate ourselves on any topic that interests us and that our society is seemingly shifting towards being more open and conscious about each other’s opinions and needs. BUT… in saying that, I think we get too stuck giving our opinion (which is of course exactly what I’m doing right now… oops! Not even sorry). We get riled up about this and that and are outraged when the world doesn’t respond like we want. I know I do, anyway. I get lost in Facebook posts or articles and forget that the passion and fire inside me is actually supposed to spring me into action… not just explode into a carefully worded response directed at some ignorant commenter online. It’s supposed to fuel me to change something I don’t like. Or to inspire me to share something special. I think that’s what hits me every time I read Florence’s words. Empty words are a waste of time when you don’t back them up with action.
Now, you can disagree with me, but I think that hits the nail on the head regarding our society today. The people who make a real impact are those who let their opinions and passions fuel them; who let their convictions take them places, instead of forgetting them as soon as a new season of their favourite show on Netflix is released.
Florence was a pretty cool gal. 15-year-old me didn’t really care that she was responsible for professionalizing nursing roles for women and opening a school for nurses… Or that she advocated for hunger relief in India, helped abolish overly-harsh prostitution laws that saved a lot of women and, apparently in her spare time, promoted the expansion of women’s roles in the workplace. But I can now recognize that her words only resonated with me because that’s the kind of woman I subconsciously wanted to be. I can’t say that I’m Florence-standard yet, but every now and again I am reminded of her words and they kick my butt into gear. Maybe I won’t open a school for nursing or abolish a misogynistic sex law today, but I CAN make the little choices that do add up. Maybe someday one of us will realize that we pulled a Florence Nightingale and altered history. I’m sure Florence didn’t set out to change the world. She simply addressed the need that she saw in front of her with a little determination and persistence.
And, did I mention she wrote some 200 books and articles in her lifetime? Yeah. Go Florence!