It’s Usually Not an Accident

Florence Nightingale was an incredible woman. She revolutionized nursing. She saved thousands and thousands of lives. This came as a surprise in Victorian England because women weren’t supposed to do career-type things, let alone something as hands-on as work in a hospital. Her spirit and her determination came as a surprise to her parents too, as we’ve talked about, who thought their wealth and status, should have bestowed on their daughter a quiet dignity and taste for the finer things. 

But anyone who looked at Florence’s family tree should not have been surprised. She wasn’t just some saint who came from nowhere. Her great grandfather was a philanthropist who supported the American Revolution, even donating large chunks of his holdings in Savannah to the cause. His son—Florence’s grandfather—was a member of the British House of Commons and a leading abolitionist in the UK. The fact that his daughter, Fanny (Florence’s mother), didn’t seem to care much about the less fortunate was the exception, not the rule, in their family. 

It wasn’t an accident that Florence Nightingale was inclined to charity and selflessness. She learned it in the fashion that traditions are created—from family. She was inspired by her ancestors. That her mother fell short? That certainly vexed her, and made it harder for her to start her journey (indeed, Florence would spend something like 16 years wrestling with whether to answer “her call”), but it didn’t stop her. 

Look, we can’t choose the family tree from which we spring. But as parents we can choose who in our family tree we can look to for guidance. We can, like Florence Nightingale, pick which family members to be inspired by, whose example to follow. As parents, we can choose which branches of the family to tell our kids about, which stories we want to highlight and fill their heads with. Raising great, selfless, courageous kids is not an accident. They aren’t sui generis or ex nihilo. They come from a tradition. They come from us. 

P.S. This was originally sent on March 31, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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