Helen Keller died in 1968 at the age of 88. Her story is remarkable for everyone that has ever felt sorry for themselves, thought they didn’t have the right opportunities in life, didn’t come from the right family, didn’t go to the right school, didn’t have the right education, didn’t have the right looks, and didn’t measure up. It’s a story for anyone who cannot find joy in the pursuit of life itself.
She was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, which is west of Huntsville. Helen was born healthy but contracted an illness when she was 19 months old that left her blind and deaf and was only able to communicate through hand signs. Imagine a 19 month old baby learning to communicate with hand signs. By age 6, she developed around 60 hand signs to communicate with her family. At one of the special schools she attended, she met a woman by the name of Anne Sullivan who was also visually impaired; she became Helen’s instructor and their friendship lasted for 49 years. She would spell words in Helen’s hand and from that miracle introduction, she learned how to communicate with the world.
She graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to become a world famous speaker, author of 12 books, and founder of the Helen Keller Institute that helped many people with similar disabilities. Many movies have been created about her story and the Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, AL, is dedicated to her as well as a statute that bears a quotation from her is permanently displayed in the US Capital.
I will leave you with this. In one of her earliest speeches in 1916, the title of the speech was “Happiness.” In that speech, she spoke of being thankful for the faculties and abilities that she did possess and that the joy of service to others was really what fulfilled her. She said “helping your fellow man was the only excuse for being in this world and in the doing of things to help one’s fellow man, lay the secret of lasting happiness.” KT