The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings today is dare. My first instinct was to write a spontaneous short fiction vignette—that is what prompts are all about, right? But, while I consider writing fiction a useful practice to improve my skills as well as a rewarding creative endeavor in its own right, my real passion is nonfiction. So, today I’ll share the true stories oftwo people who dared.
First up: Florence Nightingale. We all know her as the “lady with the lamp,” the heroic nurse who tended British soldiers during the Crimean War. But her story is so much more interesting than that. Even as a child, she nursed her dolls, pets, and even the local poor. As a young woman from a wealthy family, she did not have to work. She was attractive, and had many marriage proposals, one from a man she truly loved. Yet she turned them all down to do the work she felt compelled to do. In Victorian England, nurses were considered to be among the lowest levels of society: ignorant, dirty, and often drunk. Florence dedicated her life to changing this perception, not only caring for her patients with tender dedication, but also by lobbying for and making system-wide improvements in hygiene, administration and record-keeping, statistical analysis, reporting, and hospital construction. She dared to defy the expectations of everyone around her, and initiated a new order in health care.
Second: Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. He was born in 1977 in Ghana, West Africa, with only one leg. At the time, disability was considered to be a curse. His father left, and friends urged his mother to kill him. She did not, and instead raised him the same as able-bodied children, doing chores and going to school. As a young man, he was disturbed by how many disabled people were forced to beg to survive. He decided to show his country that people with disabilities could do useful things. In 2001, he dared to pedal a bicycle almost 400 miles across Ghana, with one leg. He drew the attention of the people, the media, and the government officials. In 2006, Ghana’s Parliament finally passed the Persons with Disability bill, which stated that people with physical disabilities are entitled to all of the same rights as the rest of the country’s citizens. “I want to spread a message to change perceptions,” he said, “and the only way to do that is to lead by example.”
These are two of the true stories that give me the courage I need to continue to dare to make my own mark on the world by writing about and sharing them with others. How about you—will you dare to make a difference in the world? Come on—I dare you!