How to Love a Florence Nightingale

We all know them, those amazing, loving, caring people who wear their damp shoulders proudly and are on the constant look out for someone who needs a good cry. These are the knights in shining armor on the white steeds, the heroes leading the charge into the fray, or Mrs. Jellyby.

You don’t know Mrs. Jellyby? She’s a character in Charles Dicken’s Bleak House who was so busy raising money for blind children in Africa that she couldn’t see or attend to her own neglected children and household.

Wait. What?

We’re supposed to be regaling the virtues of do-gooders, not applauding the sadly delusional…

So, what is a Florence Nightingale personality? They are the polar opposite of a fair-weather friend. A fair-weather friend is a sunny yellow personality who loves to have fun and doesn’t have time for anyone with a crisis, illness, or hardship. If your house is burning down, they’re only interested in joining the fire brigade if they’re going to somehow benefit. A Florence Nightingale, on the other hand, will be passing out the buckets and manning the hose.

No doubt, providing service—doing for others what they cannot do for themselves– is not only admirable but good for the soul. And “going about doing good” (Acts 10:38) is exactly the life Jesus exemplified. In fact, He told us, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me,” Matthew 25:35–45.

But even the nonreligious believe in the power of providing service and charity. It boosts self-confidence and moral. Volunteering can act as a coping skill, allowing you “escape other pressures,” reports Lea Winerman of the American Psychological Association. Poor or decreased self-esteem is often the result of abuse or feeling underappreciated. When you serve others, they, in turn, appreciate you.  

It’s good for the body. According to Stephanie Watson of Harvard Health Publications, individuals who volunteer on a regular basis are less likely to develop high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues.

But what about living day in a day out with these do-gooders who are so busy nursing lame ducks they don’t have time to catch a movie, or take a walk, or just sit and chat? Those people who just really aren’t that interested in you unless you have a drowning kitten to save?

The painful fact of the matter is, you aren’t interesting. And if you’re truly successful, you’re even less interesting to not only a Florence Nightingale, but to a lot of others, as well. There’s truth in the statement “it’s lonely at the top.”

So, what’s the answer? The answer is surprisingly universal. You love the Florence Nightingale the same as you love the fair-weather friend.  You just love them. Admire them and tell them so.

Accept people as they are and hope they do the same for you.

Shel Silverstein said it best: “How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”