Not every tenement dweller can become the David Livingstone of his generation, but what if that was put forth as the goal?
In terms of disease, sanitation and real poverty 19th century tenements were far worse than the modern versions in most western nations today. I wonder if the attitude was better then or was David Livingstone just a fluke. Why is it that so many great men of the 19th century rose up from poverty to do great things and to become great men?
A staunch abolitionist, fearless explorer and medical missionary Livingstone spent his childhood in a single room tenement and worked long hours at the mills in Scotland. At the end of the day he hit the books. The other day a teacher told me she didn’t have the heart to give students homework–school was too hard on the little flowers of today. One wonders if Livingstone complained to his parents about hard work.
Here’s where the victim mentality wreaks havoc on children. If a child has the right to be angry forever about the state of his life then when will he ever see that hitting the books in the evening could quite possibly lead him on a life of useful and exciting endeavors? Victimhood nurses cowardice and bitterness–two things David Livingstone seems never to have accepted into his young life of poverty. Somehow he knew that poverty of the mind (and heart) was far worse than living in a tenement for one’s soul. We know that as a missionary he must have believed in callings and God.
Sometimes it’s easy to be quite blase about explorers.
In an age when tourists like to pretend to experience past adventures but are seconds away from medical assistance and police, real explorers almost seem boring–though they shouldn’t. Livingstone on one of his many trips to Africa witnessed a brutal massacre of an entire town by Arabic slave traders and vowed to speak out against slavery. One must always remember that white, Christian men were the only abolitionists in the worldwide slave trade and were the only ones who ended slavery. We must remember this especially now when victimhood is the fashion and searching for someone to take revenge on is the rage.
In the West we die of heart disease, cancer and depression nowadays–victims of bad food, lackluster educations and endless hours watching other people do bad things on TV–yet we live in a “free” society.
We demand our right to complain. We isolate ourselves and wonder why people are so awful (the ones we meet in our office or the ones we see on TV). Totalitarian governments love dependent children. It’s so much easier to lead them by the nose.
Dear David Livingstone,
Thank you for stepping out in faith each day. Thank you for not only witnessing the evils of the slave trade but for doing something about it in your lifetime. You lost your wife to fever in Africa but never stopped exploring. You made the connection between malaria and mosquitoes and malaria and quinine. Good for you! I’m sorry I never knew more about you than the cartoon version of you.
You didn’t see your life as one to be lived demanding your personal rights but worked for the kind treatment of others–in short you gave up your life and in the end received a bigger life than most people ever dare to imagine. I wonder what drove you. I suspect it was your faith in old dead heroes and the one dead hero who rose again on the third day. It’s too bad that most heroes are banned in schools today. We need a a journalist like Henry Stanley to come looking for the likes of you even now!
5 responses to ““Sympathy is no substitute for action.” David Livingstone”
A brilliantly written and researched post – absolutely fabulous and I read it with great interest. Thank you!
Annika, it’s easy and fun to write a post about someone so interesting, but thanks for your kind words. The internet is full of wonderful histories and I get so excited to stumble upon some of them to share.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You’re a firestarter, Adrienne! Probably an explorer too! My grandpa was cut from the same cloth as Livingstone: walked 1,000’s of miles through East Africa, interpreted 70 languages, worked his blank off in WPA crews to support his 10 kids, was sunk by a German u-boat returning to Tanzania, held 90 days in a water tank of a ship, and made it back to the Continent he loved where he succumbed to malaria. He’s buried in Dar es Salaam. I LOVE brave people!
OK – how the hell do you turn out such fabulously interesting and well-written posts so often. You go girl !!
Wow! You know how to make a writer happy! I’m glad you find my stuff interesting–I guess I’m endlessly interested in people–and I feel compelled to share. 🙂
Thank you for the encouraging words, Cecile!
LikeLiked by 1 person