Seeing and Believing
Recently in the city of Huntsville, Alabama, over one hundred people came together to assist in the rescue of a deaf/blind puppy who had fallen into a hole fifty feet below the earth. The hole, thought to be the remnants of an old cistern, is located on the side of a mountain, one of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The tunneling of the hole was not straight down, making the rescue very difficult. The area to the west of the puppy’s entrapment is full of more mountains, complete with canyons and caves. To the west about forty miles away is the home of today’s featured empowered women, Helen Keller.
Born on June 27th just fifteen years after the end of the War Between the States in northwest Alabama, Helen Keller contracted meningitis at the age of eighteen months. The disease left over both blind and deaf, a condition seldom encountered by the country physicians treating her. The Keller family had the means, however, to seek further assistance and Helen was seen by several experts in the field. Most offered the family little hope until Helen attended the Perkins Institute and met Annie Sullivan, the teacher who would become her mentor and friend for life.
Helen Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a BA degree in the USA and went on to travel the world, speaking and living her message of inspiration. “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
Helen Keller never shied away from the realities of her being but rather sought to use them as a ladder for gaining strength and abilities. “What I’m looking for is not out there, it is in me.” That one simple sentence is a great lesson for all of us. Too often we seek happiness in material possessions or other people. The reality is that happiness begins within and then spreads outward. When we find happiness within ourselves, then we share it and it grows.
Simran Khurana wrote of Keller: “Although Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing at an early age, she lived a long and productive life as an author and activist. She was a pacifist during World War I and a socialist, an advocate for women’s rights and a member of the fledgling American Civil Liberties Union. Helen Keller traveled to 35 countries during her lifetime to support the rights of the blind.”
All too often, especially in times like these, we only see pessimism. “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” Interesting that most of us see light every day but it takes the words of a blind woman to help us truly see the light that will lead us to tomorrow and a brighter future. “It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.”
The life of Helen Keller has been written and produced into plays and movies several times over. A simple touch of another hand was the key to unlocking the world for her. That one fact is a testament to the power of human touch and the need we all have for relationships. One day her teacher Annie Sullivan put Helen’s hand under a water pump and then finger spelled into her hand the word water. By applying touch within context, Helen Keller became alive to the world around her.
“Once I knew only darkness and stillness. My life was without past or future. But a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.” We all have something to offer another. It is when we step out of our comfort zone and reach out that we are able to build bridges and relationships that enable us all to move forward towards better living and a brighter, empowered tomorrow.