12/17/33 - Helen Keller's Christmas Greeting - 2619 Eaton Rd., Cleveland, Oh
My dear friends:
When I was writing, for the Saltsburg Press, an account of our motor trip last
August, I wanted to make acknowledgment to Helen Keller, the blind and deaf
woman, for her contribution to the joy of that trip. Her article, entitled,
"Three Days to See," appearing in the Atlantic Monthly, of January, 1933, has
been the greatest inspiration to me, and has taught me to use my eyes (and ears)
as never before. After visiting my dear old "home town" at Thanksgiving the
thought came to me that perhaps I could pass along her message as a Christmas
greeting. If only one or two persons will be helped, as I was, this letter will
not have been written in vain. In this article Helen Keller tells how she would
use the privilege, were the veil of darkness lifted from her eyes for three
days. I think most of you know the story of her life: How, at nineteen months,
an illness robbed her of her sight and hearing; and how, after five years of
helplessness, bitterness, and despair, that wonderful woman, Anne M. Sullivan,
came into her life, and "released her mind from bondage" and "liberated her
soul," as John Greenleaf Whittier expressed it. It has been a long, difficult
journey from that first revealing lesson - that w-a-t-e-r, spelled into her
hand, meant that wonderful, cool something flowing from the spring; now she
is one of the best-educated women in the country, doing more for humanity than
most seeing people.
Her life has become rich and beautiful, because she sought out the beauty in everything. Great lives have touched hers, and left their indelible imprint. She counts among her friends Alexander Graham Bell, Dr. Oliver Wendell Homes, Whittier, Mark Twain, and Phillips Brooks, one of the world's greatest preachers, who wrote "O Little Town of Bethlehem," for his parish. From him she learned a most satisfying religion. "One universal religion - the religion of love"; the fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man. In her book, "The Story of My Life," she pays a high tribute to her friends. She says, "My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow of my deprivation." In this recent article of hers, this bravest of brave women, confesses that, at times, her heart cries out with longing to see the wonders of this world. And she tells how she would use the time, were she by some miracle granted three days to see. On the first day she would gaze long upon her loved ones, choosing first her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. (Just now, by the strangest coincidence, my husband handed me the newspaper account of Mrs. Macy's blindness.) Helen Keller is now with her in Scotland, giving up her great work here to "repay her debt" to her teacher and friend. I know - from what Miss Keller's autobiography tells - that Mrs. Macy sacrificed her own eye sight to help Helen, her pupil. It seems a tragedy, but I am sure she believes, more than ever, the thing she always told Helen, "The most beautiful things in this world are the things you cannot see." On Helen Keller's first day she would let her eyes linger on the face of a baby, with its eager, innocent beauty. She would look into the eyes of her beloved dogs; she would view the simple things of her home. In the afternoon a long walk in the woods, she trying desperately to absorb all the splendor of nature. She would like to see horses ploughing. (We had better - all of us - take a last look.) She would pray for the glory of a colorful sunset. Even the night would bring a new delight, in its artificial light, created by the genius of man. On the second day she would watch the miracle of dawn. That day would be devoted to seeing the pageant of man's progress, and the condensed history of the ages, as written in the exhibits of the New York Museum of Natural History. Her next stop would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With that eagerness she would "drink in" the great masterpieces - of sculpture, wood-carving and the paintings, all in a fleeting glimpse, not deeply and leisurely, as we may do. The evening of her second day she would spend at a theatre, or the movies, watching a great drama, or the graceful rhythm of a beautiful dance.
The following morning she would again greet the dawn, eager to discover new delights in it. This, her third and last day of sight, she would spend in the work-a-day world, amid the haunts of busy people. Since her home is on Long Island, she chooses, naturally, the great metropolis nearby, where moves the great panorama of life. She would watch the boats on the river, see the great structures of iron and steel, and the skyscrapers. She would revel in the mass of color on the avenue. She would visit the slums, the factories, the parks where children play. She would see the seamy side of life - to make her compassionate. That night she would again run away to the theatre - to a hilariously funny play. The one earnest admonition she gives to those who have the gift of sight is this: "Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. Your eyes would then touch and embrace every object that came within the range of your vision. Then, at last, you would really see, and a new world of beauty would open itself before you."
I came across her article quite by chance. I was waiting in the outer office of an eye specialist, and picked up the Reader's Digest, to pass away the time. I was waiting for this doctor's examination and verdict concerning our own child's eyes. Three years ago, at Christmas, our littlest one was practically blind from cataracts on both eyes. Through the marvelous science of surgery - and faith - the veil has been lifted to a great extent; and we, his parents, know the unspeakable joy of seeing him exult over, first, the green grass, then the bright colors of flowers; and now his picture books, and a thousand things the rest of us take for granted. Don't you pity him for one moment. God makes full compensation to all those who are in any way afflicted through no fault of their own. And Charlie's sunny spirit and dauntless courage are a constant challenge to the best in the rest of us. I wrote this, not as a mother, but just another person. These qualities of the spirit come from God Himself.
As we came home from Saltsburg, it rained all day, but late in the afternoon the sun burst forth, giving us a glorious rainbow in the eastern sky. When we spoke of it, Charles said, "Oh, yes," and named all the colors of the rainbow. But he wasn't even looking in the right direction. He will see it - eventually - and in the meantime there is a rainbow of hope and trust in his heart all the time. In this little incident, it seems to me, there is a lesson. In these times of stress and "dark skies," we must believe the rainbow is there, even if we can't see it.
May you all have a Happy Christmas, and in the New Year, not "three days to see," but three hundred sixty-five, and may we, above all else, see the good in each other.
Florence B. Taylor
7/11/36 - Great Lakes Expo by Former Saltsburger - #1
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