The Story of My Life
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."
- Helen Keller
Every year, right before I come close to my sobriety birthday, I tend to become a little bit squirrely. And by squirrely, I mean that I tend to become even more neurotic than my normal baseline, driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Yet somehow, by the grace of God, He always intervenes (usually through my patient friends and loved ones) and keeps me sober one more day. As I write this, I have 1,457 days sober from all mind-altering substances. God willing, I will have four years sober if I make it to next Tuesday.
In these self-sabotaging seasons, I’m comparable to a drowning person. I can’t quite seem to catch my stride, and I desperately thrash about, trying to find something to grasp onto for safety. In the process, I’m not as kind and loving towards those around me. For that, I seek forgiveness from those closest to me who have been impacted by my recent words or actions. I would also like to take the time to publically thank those who have loved me through this challenging season. Thank you for loving me when I couldn’t love myself, or anyone else.
A few weeks back, I was praying and meditating, begging God to reveal the root of the problem to me, when He spoke the name of Helen Keller in my heart. I asked Him if this was His way of telling me that I’m deaf and blind in some way, and He told me to dig deeper. So I Googled her and discovered she had written an autobiography, which I ordered on the spot.
Life gets busy, and I didn’t get to read it immediately upon its arrival. But God placed the book upon my heart again after I almost relapsed last Friday. I have barely slept the previous two nights due to being unable to put it down. It is a short read, but her story immediately connected with my heart. I had no idea she lived as full of a life as she did. I ignorantly assumed that because she was blind and deaf that she lived a hard life with little joy. Within the pages of her testimony, I found a passionate and fierce woman. She lived life with a fullness that most of us are too scared to chase after. Fellow bibliophile, she read anything she could get her hands on. Not only in English but in French, German and Latin. She took pleasure in experiencing the world through the stories of others and loved the thrill of the adventure in her own life. She loved the outdoors, especially sailing and swimming. She never let the fact she couldn’t see or hear stop her from living her best life.
Helen lost her sight at 19 months old, which sent her into a tailspin: throwing horrific temper tantrums and lashing out at anyone and everyone around her. She describes in detail her rebellious spirit and the joy she took out of her disobedience. It wasn’t until Anne Sullivan showed up in her life that she had a breakthrough in learning how to connect with others and eventually God again.
Although I am fascinated by Helen’s story, I am equally fascinated by Anne’s testimony. I had no idea that Anne was also partially blind after contracting an eye disease called trachoma at the age of five. After losing her mother at age eight, she was left in the hands of her abusive father, who sent her to an almshouse. Yet instead of letting her troubles destroy her, she used them to draw closer to God and made it her mission to love others like Christ. Helen accredits her with being the most influential person in her life; without her, she would have remained lost and broken. This is symbolic of our walk as Christians. We are like the blind leading the blind in many ways. Isaiah 55:8 comes to mind, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord.” I can’t see the world the way that God does, and in many ways, I am blind and deaf to His truths. Yet somehow, when I get out of my own head and try to help others, I am given the gift of clarity about what is most important to God: love.
Helen reveals, “Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, ‘There is joy in self-forgetfulness.’ So I try to make the light in others’ my sun, the music in others’ ears my symphony, the smile on others’ lips my happiness.” Pg 142 This is why God has given me the gift of sobriety: to love others. I can only get it if I give it away. When I become selfish and self-centered, I resort back to being deaf and blind in my own pain and misery. I lash out at others and inflict pain that isn’t the true intention of my heart or in alignment with my character. I wasn’t given a second chance at life to focus on my comfort and happiness. Helen used her trials and tribulations as an inspiration to untold millions by living life fully in the present with God and those around her. Her blind teacher Anne showed her God’s grace through her patience and faithfulness by guiding her and never leaving her side.
I admire both of these women greatly and think they are an inspiration from whom our generation can learn many things. After hearing their stories, I want more than ever to live a passionate life learning to love others better. If you get a chance to read The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, please do so. There are quite a few treasures from this woman who experienced the world in a way that many of us will never comprehend: fully lived and fully loved.
Let us strive to see others as God sees them, and love without boundaries today.