New England Historical Genealogical Society
Have you all seen this beautiful, just-discovered 1988 photograph of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan?
I saw it on AOL this morning and couldn’t take my eyes off it. Before I knew it, tears were running down my cheeks. I wasn’t sad. Just moved. Her story has always moved me.
The first movie I saw as a “big girl” (ie with a girlfriend instead of a parent) was West Side Story in 1961 (at the Strand theater in Plainfield, New Jersey). How I loved that movie! A few months later, my friend and I sat in the same theater to watch The Miracle Worker. Before the lights went out, I remember saying to my friend in my best eleven-year-old drama queen voice, “I’ll never love this movie as much as West Side Story!” A few hours of sobbing later, I had to admit I was wrong.
So many people of my generation were introduced to Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan through the Oscar-winning performances of Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft. Then we went on to read some of Keller’s eleven books and to marvel at all she’d achieved in an era when there were few resources for people as profoundly handicapped as she was. Few resources, and even less understanding.
When her picture popped up on my screen this morning, I was in the midst of my frantic push toward my book deadline. It stopped me cold, and gave me time to reflect on what’s important (people, teachers, strength, love, tolerance) and what’s not (my little book, in the grand scheme of things). It put my rheumatoid arthritis–funny-looking joints, controllable pain, scary drugs–in perspective. It filled me with wonder that people can overcome so much.
Now, I have to go back to work, but I’m reinspired. We all have our limitations and our gifts, and it’s up to us to do the best we can with the latter in spite of the former. My “little book” will never measure up to the achievements of someone like Helen Keller or Anne Sullivan, but I plan to make it the very best it can be.