In this moving video, Helen Keller is learning and experiencing dance at the hands of Martha Graham, the mother of modern dance.
As an expert on hope, Helen Keller has a lot of lessons to teach us about life. Here are nine lessons on our ninth day of Relishing Hope.
1. On Reality:
So my optimism is no mild and unreasoning satisfaction. A poet once said I must be happy because I did not see the bare, cold present, but lived in a beautiful dream. I do live in a beautiful dream; but that dream is the actual, the present,—not cold, but warm; not bare, but furnished with a thousand blessings. The very evil which the poet supposed would be a cruel disillusionment is necessary to the fullest knowledge of joy. Only by contact with evil could I have learned to feel by contrast the beauty of truth and love and goodness.
2. On Inspiration from Others:
I remember an hour when I was discouraged and ready to falter. For days I had been pegging away at a task which refused to get itself accomplished. In the midst of my perplexity I read an essay of Stevenson which made me feel as if I had been “outing” in the sunshine, instead of losing heart over a difficult task. I tried again with new courage and succeeded almost before I knew it.
3. On Struggle:
I can say with conviction that the struggle which evil necessitates is one of the greatest blessings. It makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.
4. On Work:
As my college days draw to a close, I find myself looking forward with beating heart and bright anticipations to what the future holds of activity for me. My share in the work of the world may be limited; but the fact that it is work makes it precious.
5. On Pessimism:
If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears. I should beg night and day and never be satisfied.
6. On Going at Life:
From Browning I learn that there is no lost good, and that makes it easier for me to go at life, right or wrong, do the best I know, and fear not.
7. On Encouragement:
Who shall dare let his incapacity for hope or goodness cast a shadow upon the courage of those who bear their burdens as if they were privileges?
8. On Physical Pleasure or Material Possession:
Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession. Could they win some visible goal which they have set on the horizon, how happy they would be! Lacking this gift or that circumstance, they would be miserable. If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep.
9. On Hope and Confidence:
Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
Photo from here
“With the first word I used intelligently, I learned to live, to think, to hope. Darkness cannot shut me in again. I have had a glimpse of the shore, and can now live by the hope of reaching it.”
Helen Keller lived a remarkable life, full of hope. We know that Helen was blind and deaf because of a childhood illness. We also know that her first years were very difficult for her and for family.
In her essay “Optimism,” Keller describes those early years like this, “Once I knew the depth where no hope was, and darkness lay on the face of all things. Then love came and set my soul free. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. Now I know hope and joy. Once I fretted and beat myself against the wall that shut me in. Now I rejoice in the consciousness that I can think, act and attain heaven. My life was without past or future; death, the pessimist would say, ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished.’ 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. Night fled before the day of thought, and love and joy and hope came up in a passion of obedience to knowledge.”
My oldest son is reading The Miracle Worker in his Lit class. Do you remember what it was like when Annie Sullivan first showed up at their home? Helen was this wild child who would throw herself into massive tantrums. She hid poor Annie’s bedroom key. She threw food at the dinner table. Her parents were just on the brink of giving up. But slowly and methodically, Annie Sullivan worked with five year old Helen. It all seemed pointless, when one day they are at the water pump and it all clicks for Helen. Miss Sullivan spells w-a-t-e-r into her hand, while the water spills through her fingers. She suddenly understands that these letters connect to make words. These words connect to things. These things are apart of her everyday life. A door to hope opens!
Helen starts to live again. However, her life does not start afresh. She still has all the struggle of living in a world full of sights and sounds that she will never see or hear. So what does she do?
She finds HER way. She learns to experience the world through her remaining senses. She starts to teach Annie Sullivan how to show her new things. Together, they push through hardship and seeming impossibility with creative solutions.
Helen then goes on to become the first blind person to graduate from college! Think about that. That means the first blind person to ever graduate from college was also DEAF! Is that not the most incredible thing ever?
Please let that hope filled fact put some wind in your sails today. In the moment where you want to give in or believe you are not enough, please remember what Helen Keller was able to do. And, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)