Friday, September 23, 2022

Learning Resilience from Helen Keller

This year hit me hard … kind of like the time I was playing Capture the Flag in the dark and ran full-speed into a park bench I couldn’t see. 

From COVID-19 to natural disasters and civil unrest, the year 2020 body-slammed me into the ground and graciously revealed to me that I have very little resilience. So, I decided to figure out how I can acquire it. My greatest tutor so far is someone who died in 1968 at the age of 87. Her name was Helen Keller, and you’ve probably heard of her. But I think her story deserves retelling, especially if you have any interest in the topic of developing resilience. 

Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880 in Alabama. She contracted an illness at 19 months that left her both blind and deaf. Her first few years of life were unruly and lonely. She lived at home, almost entirely isolated from the world due to her disabilities. 

At six years old, Keller began learning hand alphabet signals from a teacher named Anne Sullivan. Sullivan, who was partially blind herself, began teaching Keller how to communicate by spelling alphabet symbols into her palm. 

Even though Keller had very little memory of spoken language and no knowledge of written language, she responded quickly to the trainings and learned the word “water” within a few days. Keller went on to learn more than a dozen words per day. 

At the age of seven, she learned how to read Braille. A few years later, she learned how to speak. She was unstoppable. 

Keller once wrote, “I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is just a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. The wind passes, and the flowers are content.” 

From these words I found a clue to one aspect of resilience I hadn’t previously considered. Perhaps it is more about being content than being tough. Keller had more difficulties during her lifetime than I can imagine. And yet, she still had the mental fortitude to find happiness in her life and gratitude in her circumstances. 

If we all try to be a little more like Helen Keller, I have no doubt we’ll be able to get through the challenges of this year and future years with greater resilience. (Peterson is a Serve Daily contributor.)

Shellie Peterson
Shellie Peterson
Shellie Peterson is a mom, wife and freelance writer. She currently lives in Santaquin with her husband and daughter. In her spare time, she loves to sing, read, write and spend as much time as possible camping.
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