I sat by a friend and glanced at her phone which had a word for the day. The word was “persistence.” I like to link it to the phrase, stick-to-itiveness.
I am well acquainted with persistence. Synonym: tenacity, grit, endurance, unflagging. Even so, this doesn’t mean that I find persistence an easy feat. It takes work, and you sometimes have to be like a dog with a bone.
Then I watched an oldie-but-goodie 1962 movie, The Miracle Worker about Helen Keller. I’d seen this movie many years ago before, but I don’t remember it having such a great impact on me as it did this time. We know the story of Helen Keller and all her accomplishments in overcoming great adversity in being deaf, blind, and mute thanks to Anne Sullivan, her wonderful teacher. But Anne Sullivan faced many challenges at a young age as well.
Anne suffered from health problems of her own, growing up in an impoverished home. At a young age her sight was severely damaged from an eye disease, and at the age of eight her mother died. She became a ward of the state and underwent many botched surgeries before her vision was partially restored. Anne eventually graduated from a school for the blind. As she sought employment, she obviously became the perfect teacher to Helen Keller.
She never faltered in her belief in Helen, believing “the chick has to come out of its shell sometime.” Anne’s way was to teach while disciplining, because “obedience without understanding is blindness, too.”
Anne’s persistence and determination taught a seven-year-old deaf, blind, and mute child to blossom and communicate with the world. Later on in life, she helped Helen to write her biography.
What remarkable wit of the teacher and the student. What if Anne had given up? So many obstacles to overcome, the endless challenges to not throw in the towel. Anne saw Helen’s parents as spoiling her negative behaviors with rewards to pacify her, which was doing more harm than good. Wouldn’t it have been easier for Anne not to have cared? Give up? Leave? Instead, Anne’s persistence brought help to the helpless, light into darkness, and knowledge to ignorance. Against all odds, they both changed history. They overcame defeat and did not quit.
That’s the kind of person I want to be. How about you?
© M.A. Pérez 2015, All Rights Reserved