Thursday, June 27, 2013

On Helen Keller's Birthday

"water in the wilderness"
Genesis 36:24

My son and I just finished reading The Miracle Worker a few weeks ago.  It's a play written by William Gibson and first performed in 1959, detailing the beginning of the relationship between Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.

Helen Keller's is a wonderful story; one that has inspired me for many years.  We own two copies of the movie (the 1979 version with Patty Duke and Melissa Gilbert and the 2000 version with Alison Elliott and Hallie Kate Eisenberg).   I'm not terribly fond of the 2000 version; it's not one of the "classic" versions (the other classic version being the 1962 Anne Bancroft/Patty Duke version).  But I taped it off TV when my kids were little, and it's a version they enjoyed watching when they were younger.   

I even had the chance to meet Patty Duke a couple of years ago.  We had seen the musical Wicked at the Orpheum in San Francisco, and when it was over, the kids wanted to wait at the Stage Door, hoping to meet the stars {which they did.  Very exciting!}  but one of the first people out the door was Patty Duke, who had also been in the production.  It was a thrill for me to meet her, not so much because she is Patty Duke, but because of my admiration for Helen Keller.  Let's face it, Patty Duke is as close as I'm ever going to get!

My high esteem for Helen Keller is two part ~ first, the obstacles she had to overcome.  As if being deafblind was not enough, it was in a time when society did not know ~ so her parents did not know ~ how to help her.  As a result, when Annie Sullivan came into her life, she had the task of dealing not just with Helen's disabilities, but also her lack of discipline.

Despite her considerable handicap, Helen achieved much in this world, even graduating college, with Annie at her side.

But the other reason I admire her is her attitude.  Much of her writing gives us a glimpse of the optimism and peace this woman carried in her heart.  Many who have easier lives than Helen are not so wise and contented.

So in celebration of her birthday, I'd like to share a few quotes from this remarkable woman...

On Understanding:

 "As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word "water", first slowly, then rapidly.  I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers.  Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten ~ a thrill of returning thought, and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.  I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand."

On Humility:

"There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his."

On Obedience:

"I love to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble."

On Discouragement:

"Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content... My heart is still undisciplined and passionate, but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears."

On Suffering:

"Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men.  It then appears that we are among the privileged."

On Reading:

"Literature is my Utopia.  Here I am not disfranchised.  No barrier of the senses shuts me out of the sweet, gracious discourse of my book-friends.  They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness."

On Self-pity:

"Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world."

On Optimism:

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."

On Potential:

"If we have once seen, the day is ours, and what the day has shown."

On Gratitude:

"I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work and my God."

Photo Credit:

Be blessed today.

~ "Blessed are your eyes, for they see,
and your ears, for they hear;
for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets
and righteous men desired to see what you see,
and did not see it,
and to hear what you hear,
and did not hear it" ~
Matthew 13:16-17


  1. Today, Helen Keller 133th Birthday.. Happy Birthday!!
    I remember her quote "“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart”- Helen Keller

  2. Another beautiful quote, thank you!