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