Posted in Empathy Day

#Empathy Day: Anne Sullivan – Teacher to Helen Keller

It’s empathy day! Here’s another poem about empathy. This is from Reach the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan, Macmillan.

Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing as a baby. She became very frustrated as a child, living in silence and darkness until her family employed Anne Sullivan. Despite being partially blind herself, she cleverly found ways to help Helen communicate.  Anne was Helen’s teacher, support and companion for the next 49 years until she died – by then, she had enabled Helen get to college, learn to type, speak, get married, tackle social and political issues, including women’s suffrage, and write a book.

 

Anne Sullivan, Teacher to Helen Keller

 

I started with the word for ‘doll’,

finger-spelling on her hand.

This child could neither hear, nor see –

how could I help her understand?

 

To fill the space for song and bird,

all that sound and light explain;

out of reach did not exist

and dark and silence had no name.

 

Until I spelled into her hand

under a pump – though deaf and blind,

the word for water and the water

flowed together in her mind.

 

That living word grew in her hands,

gave her ways to hear and see,

let in hope and joy and love

with words that set her free.

 

© Liz Brownlee