Back in 4th grade, in an English textbook, I read about Helen Keller.
I was amazed.
It was the first time I had heard of her and her story. This child born healthy, contracted a disease which left her deaf and blind by the age of 19 months. What chance did she have for a normal life? None by most of our standards. And yet she persevered.
Here was a woman…a child really, that fought through adversity…with every strike in the book against her, and grew into a successful author, lecturer and political activist. She graduated from Radcliffe of all places – becoming the first deaf and blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree.
The movie “The Miracle Worker” was an eye-opening portrayal of the darkness Helen endured. It was beyond my young mind’s comprehension. I was perhaps 10 years old and had no reference for such a human plight. I didn’t personally know anyone who was blind or deaf…and if I had, I’m sure I would’ve been afraid of them, as so many of us are by things we don’t quite understand.
What was it like to live in darkness? Without sound? It was, in my imagination, the worst kind of prison. How does one communicate? Or feel inside? I had no idea.
Back then, I called Helen my idol. I suspect I didn’t really understand what I was saying. It wasn’t that I wanted to “be her” – I just had this immense respect for her courage and rise above it all attitude…and I was awe-struck by it. It blew my blossoming mind that this was possible…that people could beat that which held them down, that they could create a good life out of the ashes of illness and darkness.
This quote of Helen’s is one of my personal favorites:
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.
It speaks to what I believe to be true about life….it is either daring or it is nothing. Life is not secure – and believing it is so – is nothing short of delusion. We are meant to experience the good and bad that life has to offer – Helen has certainly taught me that.
Although she’s been gone for some time now, I hope Helen’s story lives on in today’s 4th grade textbooks for children to read about – so that future generations can understand and appreciate their good fortune simply by looking up and seeing the blue sky. – BB