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A glorious life!

helen keller

At the tender age of 19 months, this girl was hit by a double catastrophe – she became blind and deaf – Do you know who she is?  – Yes, Helen Keller.

Helen Adams Keller was born a healthy child in Tuscumbia, Alabama, U.S. on June 27, 1880 .  Her father, Captain Arthur Keller, was the editor of a newspaper, the North Alabamian and her mother was Kate Keller.

The illness that struck the infant Helen Keller, and left her deaf and blind before she learned to speak, was diagnosed as brain fever at the time. As Helen Keller grew from infancy into childhood she was wild and unruly, and had little real understanding of the world around her.

Helen Keller’s new life began on a March day in 1887 when she was a few months short of seven years old. On that day, which Miss Keller recalls as the most important day she can remember in her life, Anne Mansfield Sullivan came to Tuscumbia to be her teacher. Miss Sullivan was a 20-year-old graduate of the PerkinsSchool for the Blind.  She was recommended to Miss Kellers parents by Alexander Graham Bell a family friend. From that fateful day, the two—teacher and pupil—were inseparable until the death of Miss Sullivan in 1936.

Miss Sullivan began her task with a doll that the children at Perkins had made for her to take to Helen. By spelling “d-o-l-l” into the child’s hand, she hoped to teach her to connect objects with letters.

One day she and “Teacher”—as Helen always called her—went to the outdoor pump. Miss Sullivan started to draw water and put Helen’s hand under the spout. As the cool water gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other hand the word “w-a-t-e-r” first slowly, then rapidly. Suddenly, the signals had meaning in Helen’s mind. She knew that “water” meant the wonderful cool substance flowing over her hand. Quickly, she stopped and started to run hysterically touching everything around her  – the earth , the flowers, the leaves and demanded its letter name and by nightfall she had learned 30 words.

Helen transformed from an aggressive girl throwing tantrums to a calm and confident girl.  She learnt to communicate and became proficient in Braille. 

Helen Keller wanted to go to Harvard but in those days Harvard did not admit women. So, she settled for her second choice Radcliffe college. She entered Radcliffe in the fall of 1900 and received her bachelor of arts degree  in 1904. She was the 1st deaf and blind woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author of 12 books. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities, amid numerous other causes. She also setup Helen Keller International along with George Kessler – an organization devoted to research on health, vision and nutrition.

Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at Arcan Ridge, a few weeks short of her 88th birthday. Her ashes were placed next to her beloved companions, Anne Sullivan Macy and Polly Thomson, in the St. Joseph’s Chapel of Washington Cathedral.

What can we learn from Helen Kellers life:

  1. She is an example of someone who overcame insurmountable odds to make a difference. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to not see or hear?

And when we encounter  – small, infinitesimal changes – we are rattled and even   overwhelmed

  1. We are all blessed with so many gifts. We are alive and can wake up to a new day everyday.  We can breathe.  We enjoy our senses and faculties.
  2. You can afford 3 meals a day
  3. You have clothes to wear

This makes us think – what are we complaining about?

1. Celebrate who you are. There are many wonderful things about our life. You are an artist… or an accountant, a teacher,  a mother… or a good listener… or a generous soul. You have much to celebrate and are entirely unique.

2. Stop Comparing:

All of our lives since birth, we spend on benchmarking and comparison to others –

Why is his home bigger than mine?

Wow, he drives a Lamborghini?so what i drive b.m.w.

She must be  earning a million dollars?

Any comparison between you and another person is like comparing apples to oranges.Jim Collins said and I quote ‘Comparison is the cardinal sin of modern life. It traps us in a game we can’t win. Once we define ourselves in terms of others we lose the freedom to shape our own lives.’

3. Go for it – Set goals for yourself (starting with small, measurable and realistic goals).  But do not limit yourself.  We have to start to come out of our comfort zone, try to take risk and learn something new.

Instead of focusing on our limitations and fears – we have to focus on our goals and be persistent

4. Show thankfulness, appreciation and respect: A simple word of thanks to your child, wife to a stranger who held the lift door for you shows your appreciation.  It doesn’t cost a lot but it does make us more human.

5. Focus –  Today, we are bombarded with information from all sides – for our eyes, ears, tongue – you name it.  So much so that we have no time to even digest the information.  So, we have to learn to focus in the midst of this information explosion .

The best and most beautiful things in life cannot  be seen or even touched.  They must be felt within the heart

– Helen Keller

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