Lessons From Anne Sullivan

Proverbs 31:20 “She stretches out her hand to the poor; yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.”

Young women of God, the virtuous woman is many things, but one of the finest attributes she possesses is the heart of compassion and service to others in need. 

God admonishes us to comfort those with the comfort He gives to us.  The virtuous woman watches for the opportunity to give and extends her hand to those in need.  She remembers the mercy God has extended to her.  We were all on death row until Christ reached out His hand to us in mercy and compassion, taking the beatings we all deserved through sin.  With gratitude we extend our hand to those in need with the comfort God had given to us.

2 Cor 1:4 Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

The story of Anne Sullivan is a beautiful example of stretching her hand to the poor and needy with the comfort she had been given.  Many of you know the story of Helen Keller, the blind, deaf and mute child, who was taught to communicate by the patience and compassion of this woman.  When the physicians labeled Helen “hopeless,” the love and care and persistence of this woman worked a miracle in her life when all else failed.

The question that we will ask in this post is how did Anne, who was visually impaired herself become this extraordinary teacher?  Let’s take a look at the rest of the story.

Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936) was an abused child herself.  Born of two poor immigrants from Ireland, her life was not an easy one riddled with pain.  Her mother died of tuberculosis when Anne was seven.  She was left with a physically abusive alcoholic father, who abandoned her and her brother, who was ill from tuberculosis,  to an abandoned children orphanage, where her brother died soon after.  There she contracted a disease called trachoma which left her blind by the age of seven.  After several operations, she regained some of her sight.  Anne was hot-tempered.  She developed a childhood fever and was diagnosed by physicians as hopeless, “insane” by her caregivers.  Her father sent her to a mental institution outside of Boston, where they locked her in the basement in a cage.  She would respond to her caregivers with violence, attacking those who came near to her; therefore, she was generally ignored. 

Yet a kind, compassionate elderly floor maid thought there was yet some hope for her.  She felt through her constant love shown to Anne, she would come around.  So, she came to Anne everyday, left cookies at the side of the cage within reach, and spoke the words of love and encouragement.  At first she would only respond with violence, would not even take notice of the offering; but day after day, the maid would come, speak softly to her and try to reach out to her.  Eventually, the physicians noted a change in Anne, and as time went on, Anne, the “hopeless child” was released. She learned compassion through this caring, compassionate maid, who had the hope that her love and compassion could bring Anne around.  Without this maid’s constant encouragement, she would have remained there without hope in the world.   Anne remembered that constant encouragement and patience of this maid and wanted to give back what she had been given.  This chain of love was extended with her love and patience toward the deaf and blind child Helen Keller.

When Helen Keller received the Nobel Prize, she was asked who had the greatest impact on her life and she said,

“Annie Sullivan.” But Annie said,

“No Helen. The woman who had the greatest influence on both our lives was the floor maid at the Tewksbury Institute.”

~ Author Unknown ~

You, as women of God can, be that chain of love.  We can empathize with others if we have ourselves been abused in some way, struggled with illness, disappointment, or a myriad of other trials.  There is opportunity with every hardship to then use it to experience the compassion of Christ, feel the warmth of that compassion, then reach out to those who may be struggling on their own.  We can comfort with the comfort wherewith we were comforted of God.

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Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 3:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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