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While reading Helen’s Biography, The Story of My Life, you feel unveiling of some great secrets from the inner recesses of her life; however, in the process, you also get intrigued by many such other mysteries which enforce you to explore more, about the other aspects of her life. The same thing happened with me. After reading Helen’s description and laurel for her teacher, I felt more inquisitive to know about Miss Anne Sullivan, the teacher behind making of the great Helen Keller. And after discovering more about her teacher, I felt like finding another life’s treasure. So here I am , writing and sharing, my reading treasure with you.
1. A TEACHER CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
As the saying by William Arthur Ward goes that, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. And the great teacher inspires.” And the same goes true for Helen’s teacher, Miss Anne Sullivan.
Remembering this day, the day when her teacher came, Helen wrote that “THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrast between the two lives which it connects. It was the Third of March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.”
Robbed of her sight and hearing as Helen was, it was next to impossible to teach and groom her, but it was her “soul’s sudden awakening,” which her teacher brought, giving her voice and listening power, which even after many years of her death, people can read, listen and get inspired from her voice of immortal soul.
Helen’s life before her teacher’s coming was like a ship without ‘compass or sounding-line’ and not knowing how close or far it was to the ‘harbour’ as she wrote, but upon her arrival she mentioned that, “Gradually I got used to the silence and darkness that surrounded me and forget that it had ever been different, until she came-my teacher-who was to set my spirit free.” And in that sudden moment of joy she felt outburst of life, ““Light! Give me light!” was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.”
But initially it was not a fairy tale for Sullivan, instead it was no less than unfolding of challenging episodes in the drama of her life. Although, she expected the erratic behavior of her student, but there was something more than to that drama, which she found beyond her dismay. But for all this, Anne was well prepared and thoroughly trained at Perkins Institute of Blinds and during her former life years , where she herself had suffered from Trachoma and loss of vision until operated later on.
So, not only did she handle her brat student with compassion, love and patience but she also took the best move of taking her away from home to suit everything in the best for her student’s pursuit of knowledge, growth and development.
2. DISCIPLINE IS IMPORTANT TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE
Before Miss Sullivan could embark on her journey with Helen, she found severe disciplines issues with Helen. Helen was not only stubborn, restless and tireless in her day today activities but also disobedient in many ways. So, one of the first things which Miss Sullivan did was to tame her habits without crushing her spirits , which she wrote in one of her letters to Mrs Hopkins.
“How to discipline and control her without breaking her spirit. I shall go rather slowly at first and try to win her love. I shall not attempt to conquer her by force alone; but I shall insist on reasonable obedience from the start. One thing that impresses everybody is Helen’s tireless activity. She is never still a moment. She is here, there, and everywhere. Her hands are in everything; but nothing holds her attention for long. Dear child, her restless spirit gropes in the dark. Her untaught, unsatisfied hands destroy whatever they touch because they do not know what else to do with things.”
And then she writes, “I suppose I shall have many such battles with the little woman before she learns the only two essential things I can teach her, obedience and love.”
And within few months of progress she did teach to Helen new words, table manners and daily chores and thus was truly entitled as a Miracle Woman.
3. TRUE KNOWLEDGE AWAKENS YOUR SOUL
Soon with her love, compassion and perseverance, Miss Sullivan taught her unruly student what it means to know the world, what is the power of words. And that was the moment of epiphany in the life of the teacher and the taught together. Writing in her letter to Mrs Hopkins, she confessed that, “I thought my heart would burst, it was so full of joy.”
Describing this break-through, which got imprinted in the mind of Helen so well, she wrote in her story that “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. That living work awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”
This was the dawn of knowledge in her life. Excited and thrilled with this discovery, she soon returned home with her teacher and with great inquisitiveness touched each object as if it was calling her and was breathing alive and quivering “with life.”
That day she learnt many words which she could not remember all but some of them she wrote were mother, father, sister, teacher and many more. She was on the day, the happiest child and “for the first time longed for a new day to come.” For this was the magic of her beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan.
And then her knowledge journey began and she wrote, “Long before I learned to do a sum in arithmetic or describe the shape of the earth, Miss Sullivan had taught me to find beauty in the fragrant woods, in every blade of grass, and in the curves and dimples of my baby sister’s hand.”
And this is what her teacher taught and inspired to her. To feel, to live and to enjoy each moment!
- So be thankful to all those teachers who have taught you and have brighten your life with knowledge light. Be grateful to them, for all the good and all the bad. For the bad must have taught you how to be good, at least in some context.
- Remember that in pursuit of knowledge, it is important to have discipline. Discipline will allow you to focus on the tasks and lessons that you must learn. Without focus, you may keep on wandering for long!
- With the right kind of knowledge you develop a new perspective and understand that compassion and love are the two most important virtues to learn. And understanding how to be happy and be content in pursuit of knowing one self.
Thus lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan teach us to have indomitable learning spirit and unflinching faith in one’s own abilities to surmount any obstacle. So be confident and take your knowledge stride at the earliest.
Know that God always has a surprise knowledge gift pack wrapped in for us every day. So, unpack it, enjoy it, appreciate it, read from it and save its learning in your Life’s ledger every day!