The world hears her first cry as the delivery room light in Tuscumbia, Alabama strikes the new creature’s greystone eyes. With mama and papa’s tears comes a lasting hope that she will be forever safe and healthy. Time passes and the bearer watches her baby stumble over the toy bricks on the carpeted floor and ignore the sweet melodious calls to her warm uncovered arms, dreaming of a day when her baby will jump into them. Days go by, but nothing changes except the ruffled cough from her baby’s small throat. With fear belting in her eyes, she knows something is wrong and the warm oval of water drips down her lover’s shoulder. They rush to the hospital with their 19 month old’s body squirming up and down in their laps. The baby knew not what was happening but only that her ears craved to listen but heard complete silence, and that her eyes dreamed of the bright orange blanket she had left at home but now she would only be able to feel it. The decision was made by God for he had run out of things to give baby Helen when she needed them the most, leaving her unfinished.
What God did give her was the power of passion and courage stronger than any other. Growing up, she heard the unsaid and saw the unseen as the shadows on the playground pushed her out of the way to go down the slide; to them she was an obstacle to get around, but to her, they were motivators she wanted to prove to that she is a fighter. More time passed and then comes her “soul’s birthday”, which she celebrated with dear teacher Anne. Anne gave her an ear to be heard, a mouth to voice her unspoken words, and a friendship to confirm that she was not alone.
This was the moment in time when judgment wasn’t consuming the air, but rather hope. This was the moment in time when she saw her first glimpse of light since that delivery room in Tuscumbia. This was the moment in time when she heard the new version of herself yelling, “keep going”. This was the moment of time Helen became Helen. The bumpy books, the resonating vibrations, and the power of determination ran side by side with Helen day by day with no one other than Anne making sure the laces on her shoes were tied in case she ran too fast and lost her balance. To Helen, Anne was her source of life and made her simple words reach every ground one could walk on for “walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light”. The baby walking with her mother, the child walking with her teacher, the teenager walking with her best friend, and Helen walking with Anne. No child walks into this world with every piece of them perfectly built and polished, but they crawl in hopes of being able to walk with the help of someone holding their hand. Support gives each the ability to walk together in the darkest of times when none can see. Support gives each the ability to walk together in the cries and anguish of a world when no one wants to hear. Support gives a blind and deaf little girl from Alabama the strength to win a bachelors of the arts degree and go on to make a book inspiring others to overcome their imperfections.
Support makes an African-American woman hold her seat on a bus even when her life is at stake. Support makes the LGBTQ community legally allowed to get married and adopt children they can call their own. Support makes that little baby Helen the woman known today as Helen Keller, and it makes each individual composing their own stories part of a human chorus that the blind can see and even the deaf can hear.
Sonali Shanbhag is a Junior at Saratoga High School and loves dancing, singing and teaching.
This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor, Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D.