Monday, November 17, 2008

American Idols

Several years ago, while visiting my husband's parents in Alabama we took a side trip to the childhood home of Helen Keller. It was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. Despite being the only one of the group even mildly interested in this historic place, I took my time to linger at each door way, to touch the stair rails and to walk back to THE water pump...and then circled back a second and third time. As the Mr. and Daboyz wandered around I put my hand on the old pump handle and cried.

I have this list of dream vacation destinations and not one of them

involves a beach or resort hotel. Helen Keller's home was on that list. As is Rocky

Ridge Farm, the adult home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. If I have to, I'll

wait for Kelly's Madison to grow up and go with me! And I promise you this, I'll cry there too.

Helen Keller and Laura Ingalls Wilder were my two childhood idols. I couldn't read enough about them and my fascination hasn't waned. As an adult, Laura's later writings about her adult life became available and I read them with just as much pleasure as I had in the fourth grade when Mrs. Weinlander introduced me to my heroin by reading the Little House series to our class. Now with the internet, I can actually see pictures of these women that I had never seen before and there is even more to read about them than the sparse stories in children's books.

I didn't want to be Helen Keller for obvious reasons and I didn't want to be Annie Sullivan either. They were both blind, Helen couldn't hear or speak and Annie devoted her entire life to Helen. I wasn't so charitable as I have visions of devoting myself to such selflessness.

I have had moments to this day of wanting to be Laura. I'm sure the hard work that I think I understand is still underestimated by me but she learned and accomplished so much in just living every day in her home with her family and doing it right. Those are accomplishments we don't honor anymore.

What did I see in these little girls who became women written in history? Adventurous spirits, courage, honor. Obstacles that other people forced them to face that became the foundations of extraordinary lives. Laura didn't like sweeping and sewing and being the eyes of her sister Mary. But there was no other option because her parents insisted without promises of rewards that she live by their standards. Her books, published when she was 65 years old, reflect not only the pioneer hardships she endured but the absolute certainty that she was loved.

Helen Keller was a beast when she met Annie Sullivan. Everyone has at least seen the movies of little girl Helen running around the dining room grabbing food from every plate and hitting anyone who got in her way. She didn't want to accomplish the extraordinary either. She too, was forced to live by the standards set before her, standards that seemed cruel to expect of her. Helen Keller was an accomplished college graduate when, in adulthood, she spoke of love poured out into her in equal measure with expectation.

I'm not ready to say that there are no more heroes and heroines growing up in American homes. My fear is that we look around and label the wrong accomplishments as heroic.

My greater fear is that the generation who produced heroes with equal parts love and expectation is growing smaller and weaker.

Heroes must be formed before than can be honored.

Rather than seeking the attention of being a hero; let me learn to demand standards and pour love into the lives around me.

The heroes will arise.

2 Samuel:34-36 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great.

Pics: Above left-Helen Keller & Annie Sullivan. Above right-Laura Ingalls Wilder


Margie said...

ok... now I am crying.

And is it wierd of me to want to live to a standard (that I keep falling short to) that I could one day be someone's hero? I don't know why this is important to me, maybe because I had so many people who lived to that standard and how I looked up to them, and they never asked me to and I don't even think they expected me to. The thing that is even MORE wierd, I don't really want to know if I am their hero, I just want to live to the standard and know that someone felt that they were loved because of it.

Deb said...

Most excellent post Sara.

My prayer is that I am a hero --if only to one --Miss Olivia.

She already has told me that she loves me second - she loves Jesus first - but she loves me more than anyone on the earth! I think I'll take second place anyday!

Trish said...

My 4th grade teacher Mrs. Durham introduced me to Laura Ingalls Wilder. She too read to us everyday from Laura's books. I'll gladly go with, me and my Maddy will hit the road to explore places we've already seen, if only in our minds.

Louise said...

Oh Thara, you are a most gifted writer and an excellent example to all who have the honor of calling you 'friend'. I loveth you.

Amrita said...

Helen Keller is my hero too. If God hadn 't been merciful I would have lost my vision in infancy and later on i developed hearing loss.

KayMac said...

enjoyed this!

Jada's Gigi said...

beautiful post! I grew up not far from Helen Kellers homeplace and i adored Laura Ingals Wilder. What beautiful women...who became heroines just by following the pats set before them.