The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Soapbox

I wonder sometimes about what we value in our society. The second page of our local newspaper today has a grainy photograph of Paris Hilton sobbing, having just been told that no, she may not do her jail time in a mansion with servants and silk sheets and her every whim attended to. I not sure what's more sad--that this young woman who is in a position to do so much good in the world is instead devotedly creating an utterly wasted life, or that her doing so makes news. Daily.

Meanwhile, I know several beautiful, strong women who have fought or are fighting breast cancer--women raising children and running homes and being wives and even holding jobs, all without a single servent or wealthy parent to help pick up the bills. And they're never in the paper at all. Neither is the woman I met a few years back who lived hand to mouth all the time because she spent all of her spare money--and some that wasn't spare--trying to save just one more abandoned animal and find it a good home (she's the one who sold Gracie to me, and I wished I could have taken 10 more). I haven't seen a single article in any paper about the moms who listen to, cry over, laugh with, and angst about their kids, and never stop showing up even when the showing up is hard. Even when the kid is a sullen teenager who keeps pushing them away with one hand and pulling them back with the other.

I'd like to see a magazine or a newspaper or a tv news clip about the ordinary miracles--the police officers who keep fighting the rising tide of crime even when the wave seems to be 11 stories tall and anything they can do is like a spit in the ocean, and they are abused daily by the very citizenry they're risking their lives to protect. The mom on the playground who watches every kid like a hawk because she knows in her heart that it's a village, it HAS to be a village, no matter what society says. The busy executive who mows his elderly mother's lawn every week without being asked or taking a thing in return.

There's a TV show that interviews different actors and they always ask a variety of questions suggested by the audience, as well as a handful of stock questions that every guest gets. One of them is "What is your favorite word?" I like a lot of words--compassion, gentle, tender, free, lullaby. But my favorite, once I've thought about it long and hard, is still "mercy". I love that word. We tend to think of it in judicial terms--the granting of mercy to someone who has done wrong. That's only part of the picture, though. It can also mean "an act of compassion or kindness." I'd go further and say that to show mercy is to try on the heart of another person, to wear their pain for a minute or a day, and to remember that pain and let it drive you to try to heal it or soothe it or ease it for even a second.

I admire people who know about this, who know how to find the quality of mercy in themselves--whether it is mercy for homeless animals or for a stranger's child on a playground. Or even for the family that needs them and so they soldier on through a horrible illness even when it would be easier to give up--I think that's a kind of mercy. And I want to hear more about this. I want to read about those people who are extraordinary in their ordinariness. I want to open the paper each day and read that someone was newsworthy because they gave of their heart or their hands or whatever they might have had because it was the right thing to do and because it fed their soul to do it. I don't to open the paper and read that the press trampled one another to take a picture of a pitiful, sobbing heiress who lives a 2 dimensional photograph of a life where pain is something that happens to other people. Why do we care about this?

It will be a great day when the most important, newsworthy people don't give a damn whether their works are noticed are not, because it isn't about that. It's about doing the right thing, about caring for someone else more than yourself for a few minutes, about remembering that not one of us is an island unto ourselves--we all need each other. I'm not giving up on that day....but papers like today's give me more than a spasm of grief.


  • At 11:30 PM, Blogger Faren said…

    Good post. I keep thinking..."They have nothing more news worthy than Paris Hilton? The world must be in better shape than I thought."
    If they showed news like you want them too, I would actually watch it!

  • At 11:35 PM, Blogger Kit said…

    That's what these blogs are for. This is where we find that people are real and that the sobbing pampered princesses live amongst us but are TERRIBLY out-numbered by the noble, the humble, the kind, and the patient.

    I believe that everyone has their burdens, though. How hard must it be to go from being fawned over by men and women and having every whim answered to being thrown into jail? It's a shock but I think this will do lil' Paris some good. I think she may actually grow from this, whether she wants to or not. So good on the judge for holding steady on his decision, I only wish it happened more often.

  • At 12:19 AM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    That'll be the day Florence .We have to watch the brainless tart sobbing her heart out because she has a few days punishment too. It's constantly on the news and I want to scream " I don't care" . I might be guilty of just having read a "celeb" bio. but he's not your average celeb, he has a brain and can write as well . I only became interested in him when he was on the radio and at the same time as a paramedic .He was the only other guest who went out of his way to talk to the guy and make him comfortable .It was obvious the others were shocked an "ordinary" person was even on .Like you he writes am amazing blog , his about his days as a paramedic on the streets of London .

  • At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Paula in Iiowa said…

    AMEN my sister. You speak rightly and I am glad to hear it. Thanks!

  • At 6:31 AM, Blogger Lynn said…

    Thank you, Sister Flo, for the first and possibly best sermon I will hear or read today. [Can we get an "amen" here?] I'm popping your link into a draft for later.

  • At 8:21 AM, Blogger Marianne said…


    I'm right there with you. On all counts.


  • At 4:29 PM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    And what gets me is that it's so bloody hard to avoid! Fortunately, at least online, you usually only see the headlines and a few pix, which you can let your eyes slide on over. I'm not even quite sure who the hell Paris Hilton is. Thankfully. ;)

    (Um, and you wonder why we think you could write a book?? Essays, hon, essays!)

  • At 5:26 AM, Blogger lisalouryan said…

    Amen, sister!

    My heart breaks for a family that I know of who just lost their young son to cancer, or for my co-worker whose husband was diagnosed a year ago (2 months after they got married) with terminal cancer. Yet these people soldier on, getting through their days without complaint and helping other people along the way as well.

    I know for myself, that my outlook changed considerably when my mother died years ago. It changes you, and if you're lucky, it opens your heart in ways that you would never have dreamed possible!

    It's a matter of perspective I think - that and a little empathy never hurts either!!


  • At 7:26 AM, Blogger Robin said…

    Great Post!! I'm glad you are back...
    As far as Ole Paris goes, this is the first time in her life she's EVER had ANY discipline of any kind...poor baby---right, and there are those who feel sorry for her!
    I've pretty much stopped reading the paper or watching the news unless it's local because of all the junk being reported, if they didn't give her airtime...she wouldn't be so "significant"!

  • At 11:29 AM, Blogger Jo said…

    Great post, I see my blog reading as sitting down with a group of friends...and much better and more valuable than reading a newspaper.


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