It was likely scarlet fever that brought Anne Mansfield Sullivan into Helen Keller’s life. Helen was a perfectly healthy baby from her birth in 1880 until her nineteenth month, when she contracted the grave illness that would steal her sight and hearing away.
By age 7, Helen was quite wild and disobedient towards her doting parents. They were at their wits end when they hired young Miss Sullivan, a graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind. Anne had a heart of gold, and more wisdom than most twenty-year-old women. She knew that her young charge needed discipline, and she knew that it must come from a place of love. Little Helen’s spirit could not be crushed in the process of her learning.
The student and teacher would soon develop a bond that would last until Anne’s death many years after. Helen Keller would earn a college degree, become an author, speaker, and founder of the Helen Keller International Organization that she founded along with George A. Kessler. She was a woman set free from a prison of darkness and silence by her loving teacher’s hand.
Anne cared about Helen’s spiritual awakening as well, introducing her to Phillips Brooks who shared with Helen of Christ’s love for her. “I always knew He was there, but I didn’t know His name!” Helen exclaimed.
Isolation and darkness come in many forms. Helen experienced hers in the most literal sense, but every human heart will experience the pain of feeling misunderstood and alone. Helen’s answer came in the form of a loving and wise young woman who had herself experienced near blindness and a painful childhood. God will shine His love on every life in His own way. The psalmist knew this fully, and he knew the “why” behind his pain—it was to draw him to his waiting God:
But as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge and placed my trust in Him,
That I may tell of all Your works. Psalm 73:28
It is the difficulties in our lives that lead us to our loving heavenly Father. Whether it be disease, heartache, or profound loss, He loves us enough to use our pain to bring us to His waiting arms.