January 8, 2020

One of my favorite movies was released in 1962.  It was titled The Miracle Worker.  The movie starred Patty Duke, playing the character of Helen Keller, and Anne Bancroft played the part of Annie Sullivan.

The story begins when Helen Keller was born in Alabama in 1880.  At around two years of age, Helen contracts a high fever which leaves her blind and deaf.  By the time she was six years old, her father was so frustrated trying to cope with Helen’s problems that he wanted to put her in an institution. But Helen’s mother would not agree to it. Instead, she checked with a school for the blind, and the administrator suggested the family hire one of their recent graduates to tutor Helen.

The graduate was Annie Sullivan. She was just 21 years old, had been orphaned at a young age, and had been institutionalized herself due to being nearly blind.  The administrator said she was very smart and compassionate.  So, the family hired Annie to live in their home with them and tutor Helen. The family mostly wanted her to teach Helen manners, as she often threw fits of rage and had a very bad temper, just due to frustration with her life situation.

But Annie wanted to do more for Helen.  And she did.  The movie spends much time showing how Annie worked so patiently and lovingly with Helen until she eventually learned a type of sign language by being touched in the palm of her hand by Annie.  Helen learns to communicate well.  She could read Braille, and eventually graduated from college.  But Helen would always need a personal assistant.  Annie was that assistant for 49 years.

Helen went on in life to accomplish many important things. She wrote twelve books, lectured all over the world, was very active in politics and social problems; she was the key founder of The American Civil Liberties Union. She won many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Legion of Honor. Her life was one lived to the fullest of possibilities, even with her handicaps.

But possibly none of those things could have happened with Helen if it had not been for Annie Sullivan, the true miracle worker.  It is amazing what can happen in life with a person if they have the proper guidance, and loving instruction and encouragement.

I feel so blessed to have had many wonderful tutors in my life, beginning with my mother.  She was famous for her favorite mantra to all four of her children.  She so often would tell us, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  I’ll never forget those remarks, or her love and encouragement.

Anyone can be a great tutor and inspiration to others. There’s an organization in America called Big Brothers and Sisters.  It’s there to help children without strong father-figures or mother-figures in their lives. What a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction there is in one’s life when they help another person achieve their full potential. I’m sure Annie Sullivan felt much pride over seeing what Helen Keller accomplished.  Annie knew she was partially responsible for all of Helen’s achievements.

There’s a poem written in 1865 by William Ross Wallace that tells about helping other people, and the results of that help. The title of the poem is the refrain used many times throughout the body of the poem. The title is: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is The Hand That Rules the World.

The meaning of the poem is quite obvious.  Although the poem emphasizes the influence of the mother on one’s life, it also has a mention of the father, too.  There’s an old Jewish proverb, said to be handed down by the saints, that says, “God couldn’t be everywhere, that’s why He made mothers.”

Well, mothers and fathers do have tremendous influence on their children. And they also have a tremendous God-given responsibility to their children to love and mentor them.

I close with a quote from the Bible. Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

God Bless You,
Spencer Plumley