I have always been inspired by the life of Helen Keller. Born in 1880, she was the first deaf and blind person to graduate college in the United States. She starred in a movie and even performed for two years in a traveling vaudeville show with her amazing teacher, Anne Sullivan.
Helen Keller: “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.”
Having spent the last three weeks at home and taking walks, I am filled with appreciation that I really enjoy being with my wife, we are retired, and the internet hasn’t broken. What is the most difficult is knowing that so many people around the world are suffering. But, I am encouraged by the countless stories of bravery as neighbors reach out to neighbors and thousands risk their lives on the front lines to help the sick and elderly. I am hopeful that this difficult situation will continue to bring the world closer with a shared sense of respect and responsibility.
Keller: “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
As a young person, I felt a compelling desire to accomplish something grand such as cure the common cold, start an international nonprofit or travel to outer space (I haven’t given up on that one). I eventually learned that even the smallest positive action I took was extremely meaningful. Whether that was to raise two wonderful daughters, befriend the checker behind the plexiglass screen at our local market or encourage a friend over FaceTime, I know that greatness is comprised of many small steps.
Keller: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature …”
Now that we’re physically isolated and away from most external distractions, our inner strengths and weaknesses may become more apparent. Therefore, it is important that we self-reflect, win over these weaknesses and take advantage of our unique strengths. I think Keller would implore us to live one day at a time and not be defeated by fear or events happening around us.
Perhaps what is most frightening about this pandemic is that we can’t hear, see or fathom the extent of this insidious threat. Many times, Keller had to trust other people to watch out for her. Similarly, my physical well-being at this time is dependent on the thoughtful behavior of my fellow citizens. It puts into perspective why Keller was so frightened as a child and how courageous she became, as evidenced by this short 1919 silent documentary.
In the final analysis, the degree to which we humans can begin to operate in a more cohesive, compassionate manner will determine how quickly and thoroughly we can get through this crisis. Perhaps then we can apply these same hard-earned lessons to the health of our overall planet. As Keller once declared: “Patience and perseverance always conquer in the end.”
Stay home and stay safe!
ABOUT MIKE LISAGOR – Mike Lisagor plays harmonica and sings in Good Karma Blues. He has written hundreds of magazine articles and blogs on a variety of business and Buddhist related topics. He is the author of “Romancing the Buddha,” which he adapted into a successful one-man show that he performed at Bainbridge Performing Arts and in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. His nature photographs have appeared in the Boston Globe, Bainbridge Island Magazine, Living Buddhism as well as in several local galleries. His latest graphic art project, “Reimagined Nature”, is in the lobby of New Motion Physical Therapy.