Some time ago, my dad handed me a book by Mark Twain and told me that it was hands down one of the most inspiring books he had ever read. Apparently, it had even moved him to tears when he was sitting in an airport, which, if you know anything about my dad or have ever seen him, would be quite the sight to see. The book was “Joan of Arc.” For those who aren’t familiar with her history, St. Joan of Arc was a 16-year-old French girl who one day felt called by God to lead the armies of France in battle against the English in the Hundred Years’ War.
After reading the book, all I could think about was how young Joan was when she took on a task that most full grown men wouldn’t have the courage or intellect to do. I tried imagining myself in her situation and how I would have felt marching against the armies of England with small odds of survival. The truth is, I can’t imagine it, and I don’t know many who can. I can barely muster up the courage to friend request a cute guy on Facebook, let alone lead a nation into battle.
She was 16 years old. In addition, this all happened in the 15th century, so she didn’t have half of the resources that we have now. She didn’t have warm Ugg boots or Northface jackets or earmuffs to keep her warm in the winter. She didn’t have grocery stores nearby to stock up on food for her journey. She didn’t even have what we consider today a proper education. She came from a peasant family in rural France and all she had to rely on was her heart and faith in God.
It bewilders me to think of all of the things I had at my disposal when I was 16 compared to Joan. I was just floating through high school, all concerned with studying for the ACT and finding a date for homecoming and wearing Hollister pants to school. My biggest concern in the world was deciding where I would go to college and how I would make new friends. I had a refrigerator full of food to come home to, the Internet to entertain and educate myself, and a warm bed to sleep in. More so, I had two parents looking out for me, providing for all of my needs and sacrificing their time and energy so my sisters and I could continue living comfortable lives.
I can only imagine what Joan of Arc would have been able to accomplish if she lived in my conditions, if she had the education I have, access to my resources and support from my family. It makes me think, how much of my potential am I actually fulfilling? I like to think I’ve developed some skills and intelligence through the years, but compared to this teenage French warrior, how much have I really accomplished? Now, I’ve been told basically from day one of first grade to not compare myself to others, because everyone has their own unique set of skills and you are your own person and all of that jazz. This is true, and I understand that Joan set a pretty unreachable standard with the whole “leading a nation at 16” thing. However, it makes me think twice now about how I spend my time.
What would I be able to accomplish if I stopped watching Netflix 18 hours a day? What if instead of looking at pictures of my friend’s food on Instagram, I started reading more books or researching useful information? We are in the technology era and have so much information literally at our fingertips, and even still a majority of people use the technology for pointless tasks. If Joan of Arc could lead a nation to victory with just the clothes on her back, what could our generation be able to do with an artillery of technology and information?
By handing me the book about Joan of Arc, my dad unknowingly handed me a challenge (or maybe he knew all along; he is tricky like that). If you are a frequent reader of my columns, you should know by now that I’m all about personal challenges. There’s always room for growth, so this week’s challenge is about using time and resources more effectively and productively, and building character instead of my number of tweets. And, as always, I extend this challenge to my readers. After all, we may have a modern day Joan in our midsts.