“Sympathy is no substitute for action.” David Livingstone

the-victoria-falls-or-mosi-oa-tunya-ken-welsh

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.

David-Livingstone-jeune-env1845
“If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”

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!

stanley1“Henry Stanley  was a remarkable man. Orphaned at an early age he spent his formative years in a workhouse in Wales, crossed the Atlantic at age 15 as a crewman of a merchant ship and jumped ship in New Orleans. Befriended by a local merchant, he took the man’s name – Henry Stanley – as his own and went on to fight in the Civil War before working his way into a career in journalism.”** Eyewitness to History

Stanley was sent to find Livingstone in Africa after he was presumed dead. He uttered the famous, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” and came away from their meeting with this to say: For four months and four days I lived with David Livingstone in the same house, or in the same boat, or in the same tent, and I never found a fault in him. I am a man of quick temper, and often without sufficient cause, I dare say, have broken the ties of friendship; but with Livingstone I never had cause for resentment, but each day’s life with him added to my admiration for him.

David Livingstone in his own words sums up life like this:

“For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”

5 thoughts on ““Sympathy is no substitute for action.” David Livingstone

    • 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.

      Love,
      A

      Liked by 1 person

  1. 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!

    Like

    • 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!

      Love,
      A

      Liked by 1 person

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