Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Amazing Individual: Helen Keller

I thought today would be the perfect day to share my
fascination with and thoughts on a book I checked out from the
 library almost a week ago.  The book has pictures with captions
telling the life story and accomplishments of Helen Keller,
who's birthday would have been today, June 27th.
I am so glad I had the privelege of seeing even a glimpse of who she was through
this book, and I have to say... I had no idea how amazing she was!

Yes, I had learned during my childhood that she was stricken with
an illness early in her life that left her both blind and deaf.
I also knew that she had accomplished incredible things in her life.
Unfortunately, though, most of my knowledge of her consisted of what I
had been told or read to about- that she was an unagreeable person due to her
frustrations and struggles in life. 
That doesn't seem to be true at all according to what I have been reading;
she actually seems to have been quite a lovely person.
What truly left an impression on me was the way she learned
to function as she did.  Reading about her last night, I finally
discovered how she learned to read and write and live her life in the incredible
way that she did, and it is absolutely miraculous.
.      .      .

Helen, who was at first
 an uncontrollable and frustrated child due to her
struggles, was introduced to a teacher when she was seven.  This teacher,
Annie Sullivan (who would stay with Helen for nearly fifty years),
 would change her life forever.  Before this time,
Helen could not read or write or functionally understand others, but after
just a few months with Annie, Helen had her first breakthrough...
Her teacher would attempt to communicate words to
Helen by touch- letting her hold something, such as a doll, or other object
and then spelling the word D-O-L-L out in her hand.
The first time Helen understood that the letters spelled out in her hand were
meant to describe the object she was feeling was when her teacher
ran cool water over hand and spelled out the word 'water'.
I can't even imagine how Helen must have felt to have the amazing realization
and happiness of being able to communicate in this way, knowing
what W-A-T-E-R was.
This was only the first step in her progression.

All of her life, Helen 'heard' and understood people in this way, by having words
and sentences spelled out to her letter by letter.  When braille
was not available for a certain text, even books were read to her this way.
Another way she did this was by using her hands to feel the vibrations of
others throats (voiceboxes) when they were speaking while feeling
their lips to sense what motions their mouth was making for each word.
Learning these things about Helen Keller has made such an impression on me;
saying she was a fascinating person is an understatement.

I found very old footage showing how she understood words and
spoke.  As I've been reading about her, I couldn't help but wonder
what her voice was like, so it was very interesting to hear her speak.

Helen was asked once what her biggest regret was about life.
She replied that it was that she was never able to speak properly.
In the opinion of most people I'm sure, it is amazing
that she could even form words and speak at all, having never actually heard
anyone's voice to teach her how to speak and pronounce them.

These aspects of her life are what truly amazed me, but Ms. Keller accomplished
much in her life and met some of the world's most famous and powerful
people as well, including presidents and first ladies, and leaders of other
countries such as India.
She was also mentored in her youth by Alexander Graham Bell,
and in her younger years also met Mark Twain.

~I was surprised and delighted to learn a few interesting facts about Helen
I did not know before reading about her this week:

Helen was a Southern girl!  She was born and raised in
Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1880.

She had two other siblings, a sister and a brother.

In college, Helen found it hard to make friends because
practically none of her classmates knew the 'finger alphabet'
she used to communicate... so her classmates bought her a Boston
terrier to show their friendship and she became very fond of him.

Helen used her sense of touch to 'hear' music by feeling
the vibrations the organ and other instruments made.

As an adult, she had her eyes surgically removed and replaced
with glass blue eyes.

Helen had hobbies of playing trumpet, as well as
horse-back riding.

I love reading about or discovering a subject or person that I never
took the opportunity to educate myself on before.  I enjoy it even more when
I become enthralled with that subject, and Helen Keller and her incredible life
have definitely captivated and amazed me.
I hope to read her biographies and autobiography at some point in my life!

She was truly an astonishing human being and lived a bright life
despite living in darkness and silence.

What do you think of Helen Keller and her life?

Thankyou for reading.
Have a blessed day!

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