I recently learned the story behind the story of Helen Keller.
Have you every heard of Anne Sullivan? She was Helen’s teacher and the story behind her story.
At age five Anne contracted trachoma, an eye disease that scars the cornea. At age eight her mother died and shortly afterwards her father abandoned her and her three-year-old brother. They were sent to a poor house where her brother died three months later because of the retched living conditions. She learned how to survive and six years later was admitted to the Perkins school for the blind.
Although living conditions improved, life was still difficult for her. Most of the students at the school were from wealthy families and ridiculed her for uncivilized behavior. Some of the teachers were no better not taking into consideration that she had never attend school before. Instead of giving up, Anne transformed her humiliation and frustration into determination and excelled, graduating as valedictorian.
From these experiences Anne developed the resilience and skills she would need to accept her next challenge as Helen Keller’s mentor. At first life with Helen was trying. Once in a fit of exasperation, Helen knocked out Anne’s tooth.
Able to empathize with Helen’s frustration, Anne saw in her student the potential that she had felt at Perkins and adapted her teaching style to Helen’s keen intellect and free spirit.
Understanding and joy entered Helen’s dark, silent life when she connected the feeling of cool water pouring over her hand while Anne simultaneously finger spelled water on her palm. From then on Helen couldn’t learn fast enough. When her parents were content that their unruly daughter now behaved courteously, they were ready to stop the lessons, but Anne knew that Helen was capable of much more.
Very few teachers could have taught Helen, but because of the trials and disability that Anne experienced she could.
Like Anne our own childhood experiences strengthen us and cause us to struggle. Our strengths and managing/overcoming our struggles allow us to meet our children’s needs enabling them to develop self-confidence, resilience, empathy and more to achieve their potential.
We are the story behind our children’s story.