I’ve read biographies of Helen Keller all my life and it is still one of the most remarkable miracles I’ve ever known. But there are facets of her story that are new to me. I ran across this picture of Helen and her dog Jumbo today and I realized that she is signing to the dog. Researching it a bit I found this quote from Helen:
“After my education began, the world which came within my reach was all alive. I spelled to my blocks and my dogs. I sympathized with plants when the flowers were picked, because I thought it hurt them and that they grieved for their lost blossoms. It was years before I could be made to believe that my dogs did not understand what I said, and I always apologized to them when I ran into or stepped on them.”
When I thought about my own love of dogs, the idea occured to me that perhaps Helen’s dogs did understand her. Not because she was signing letters in their hands, but in a way that the world of nature communicates – a wordless wonder of life. In a way, we are limited in our abilities to communicate in that we rely on vision and hearing predominately. But what about Helen who had neither sense? She writes:
“I have just touched my dog. He was rolling on the grass, with pleasure in every muscle and limb. I wanted to catch a picture of him in my fingers and I touched him as lightly as I would cobwebs…He pressed close to me, as if he were fain to crowd himself into my hand…If he could speak, I believe he would say with me that paradise is attained by touch; for in touch is all love and intelligence.”
Had it not been for Alexander Graham Bell and Anne Sullivan, we might never have discovered the capabilities of the human mind. We might still think, as did most people in those times, that the deaf and blind belonged in institutions. Finding her way out of the darkness that trapped her was miracle enough, but that she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe college in 1904 is amazing. She was the first blind and deaf person to ever receive a college degree.
She learned to write letters that she had never seen. Helen once said: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” I wish we all could live life as Helen did. She remains a miracle and inspiration for us all.
Dedicated to the many
men and women in the
program at the
University of Tulsa.