I normally like to speak about what has been happening during the week but this week’s story is so powerful that I want to share this with you and simply admire the unbelievable Mindset that goes with this true story.
This summarises my favourite phrase – ‘It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you respond which makes the difference.’
“Helen Keller was born 27 June 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. When she was only 19 months old, she experienced a severe childhood illness, which left her deaf and blind (only a very partial sight).
For the first few years of her life, she was only able to communicate with her family through a rudimentary number of signs; she had a little more success communicating with the six-year-old daughter of the family cook.
However, unable to communicate properly, she was considered to be badly behaved; for example, eating from the plates of anyone on the table with her fingers.
Alexander Graham Bell
In 1886, Helen was sent to see an eye, ear and nose specialist in Baltimore. He put them in touch with Alexander Graham Bell, who was currently investigate issues of deafness and sound (he would also develop the first telephone).
Bell was moved by the experience of working with Keller, writing that:
“I feel that in this child I have seen more of the Divine than has been manifest in anyone I ever met before.”
Alexander Bell helped Keller to visit the Perkins Institute for the Blind, and this led to a long relationship with Anne Sullivan – who was a former student herself.
Sullivan was visually impaired and, aged only 20, and with no prior experience, she set about teaching Helen how to communicate. The two maintained a long relationship of 49 years.
Learning to Communicate
In the beginning, Keller was frustrated by her inability to pick up the hand signals that Sullivan was giving. However, after a frustrating month, Keller picked up on Sullivan’s system of hand signals through understanding the word water.
Sullivan poured water over Keller’s left hand and wrote out on her right hand the word ‘water’. This helped Helen to fully understand the system, and she was soon able to identify a variety of household objects.
“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 contrasts between the two lives which it connects. It was the third of March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.”
Keller made rapid progress and quickly overcame her bad habits. She became proficient in Braille and was able to begin a fruitful education, despite her disability. Keller made more progress than anyone expected.
She would later learn to write with a Braille typewriter.
Keller came into contact with American author, Mark Twain. Twain admired the perseverance of Keller and helped persuade Henry Rogers, an oil businessman to fund her education.
With great difficulty, Keller was able to study at Radcliffe College, where in 1904, she was able to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During her education, she also learned to speak and practise lip-reading.
She developed wisdom
Her sense of touch became extremely subtle. She also found that deafness and blindness encouraged her to develop wisdom and understanding from beyond the senses.
“We differ, blind and seeing, one from another, not in our senses, but in the use we make of them, in the imagination and courage with which we seek wisdom beyond the senses.”
Keller became a proficient writer and speaker. In 1903, she published an autobiography ‘The Story of My Life‘ It recounted her struggles to overcome her disabilities and the way it forced her to look at life from a different perspective.
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
― Helen Keller
She believed there was more to life
What a wonderful account of someone who never gave up and had the belief that there was more to life than her current situation. Because of that inner drive she achieved amazing things in her life and her legend lives on inspiring millions of people across the world.
Her mindset and the help of some key people changed her life forever.
We can all improve
Mindset is everything and once we understand this our lives can be transformed. No matter what our current circumstances are we can change them for the better with the right Mindset and Mental Resilience.
To put what Helen faced in perspective, close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears. This is what her life was like – now try to imagine the difficulties she faced.
Thoughts for the week.
- Read the story of Helen Keller again and pick out one or two things which you can take to improve your mindset.
- How do you respond when things go wrong?
- Do you give up or do you fight?
- Next time something goes wrong see it as a challenge to apply a positive mindset.
- Observe how your attitude is different when you do this and how the outcome is also different.
Well that’s it for this week have a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend and keep Believing.
Warm and healthy regards.
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