My grandmothers were amazing women. I have long said that if I could be half the woman either of them was, I would have really accomplished something. As amazing as they were and as much adversity as they overcame, you don’t know who they are.
But you know Helen Keller.
Born normal, Helen lost her sight and hearing during an illness as a toddler. Without that horrific event, she would likely have grown into a normal woman who overcame normal things, to live a normal life and leave a normal family. And she would have been just as anonymous to the world at large as my grandmothers. She would likely have been just some old lady.
Several times recently, I’ve seen this Helen Keller quote on Facebook: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.”
Now, my first thought in response to that quote is (frankly) snarky, centers on the word “see” and you can probably guess what it is. However, when I yank my head around to being a grown-up again, I think of how remarkable this statement really is. I may claim to be the Positive Thinking Blog Goddess, but the only reason that title is available is because blogs weren’t around when Helen Keller was alive.
Can you imagine what her life must have been like without sound or sight? I can’t even fathom it. I would think that it was particularly difficult if she had memories of those senses from her early childhood. Regardless, she didn’t just deal with the loss of her senses; she kicked butt.
Her disabilities, her struggles and the people who helped her with them made her a great woman in history. If any piece of that trifecta had been missing, she would have ended up being a totally different person – perhaps an even greater one, but, likely, just somebody’s grandmother. Without blindness, Ray Charles would probably have just been some guy. With a present father, Bill Clinton might have been just another lawyer. These people turned difficulties into stepping stones.
These past few weeks, I have struggled (and continue to struggle) with some things. During these times, the temptation to eat like a Labrador is great. Difficulties are real tests of our resolve and of our new coping mechanisms. I cannot say that mine have been successful every time; but, I can say that I’ve actually lost about three pounds. Net effect is that I win. My struggles and issues don’t put me in the realm of those people, surely; but, I’m okay with that. I don’t need to be a great speaker, musician or politician. I need to be a good human and these present difficulties, as badly as they annoy me, make me better – more compassionate, more patient, more humble.
One day, I will likely be “just some old lady” to most; however, I work every day to become a grandmother worthy of imitation to at least some.