Blind to Vision

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Two of my best Estonian friends sent me 365 rolled-up quotes along with candy and tiny booze bottles to Chuuk. I used to open a rolled-up quote every morning in Chuuk, but as the package arrived well into my year, I am still left with about 60. Sadly the tiny booze bottles weren’t as lasting.

Today’s quote was by Helen Keller:

The only worse thing than being blind is having sight but no vision.

Perhaps to shame myself right now, I admit that I didn’t recognize the name Helen Keller. Since my life here in Finland is similar to my life in Chuuk in the sense that I literally have nothing but time, and differs in the sense that I have high-speed internet available at all times, I looked the name up.

Helen Keller, born in Alabama in 1880. The first sight and hearing impaired person in America to have completed a Bachelor’s Degree. Impressive. Completing my Bachelor’s was tough enough even if I’m completely healthy, fit as a fiddle. How do some people do that?

Navigated to YouTube, and despite extremely poor quality, I decided to watch this video. Now, if you have nothing better to do in the next hour, this would be the only low-resolution video I’d recommend you to watch. It’s about Helen Keller’s childhood. She was born to a prestigious family, who, collectively and despite the mother’s unconditional love for her daughter, didn’t quite understand Helen, which lead to her getting her way in every issue she had with her parents and, on top of that, being rewarded for bad behavior in the form of a piece of candy.

How did she transform from a young, misunderstood sugar-addict to one of the biggest miracles of her time? The answer is Anne Sullivan.

Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller a way to communicate, she gave her language. In the 18-1900s, this was not usual. According to the video, Helen’s family did not believe she could learn anything, and were ready to wave Ms. Sullivan goodbye as soon as Helen’s behavior had only experienced minor improvements. But Anne Sullivan saw Helen’s potential when nobody else did. She had to fight back an influential family to make them realize their daughter’s needs and convince them that tiny signs of learning were huge steps in Helen’s learning. With the focus always on Helen’s needs, Anne Sullivan became Helen’s savior and life-long teacher. She lead Helen to be the first sight and hearing impaired degree-holder in America, and like any great teacher, she’s taken almost no credit for this achievement.

I have been suffering of what they call an identity crisis since Chuuk. My ‘crisis’ has made me take up hobbies such as journaling, meditation, long walks by myself, soul-searching, coloring, and what not. It’s been all about me, me, me, and how to make my life better. This morning with Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan got me thinking. What if instead of being entirely focused on bettering myself I’d take that time and energy to think how I could better other people, or something else in this world… Instead of thinking what the corporate world has to offer to me, I’d think what I have to offer to the world… Anne Sullivan’s goals were admirably selfless and entirely focused on another person, however hard she needed to struggle and put her own needs aside… Not many people in the Western World are willing to do the same. Like I said, I’ve been entirely focused on myself lately, as if a year in a community and family based society of the extreme sort helped nothing to counterattack my Western egotism. However… Is it possible that we all have a little Anne Sullivan somewhere deep inside of us? What if we all let that little Anne Sullivan flourish in our bodies and take over the main focus points in our minds? What kind of a place would the world then be?

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