Someone asked me: if you had one last opportunity to speak, what would you say?
I would tell a story about a lady that was born in Massachusetts in 1866. This lady was called Annie. She was the oldest child of Thomas and Alice, both parents were illiterate, unskilled and classified as poor immigrants. She struggled as a kid. From a very young age, she always wanted to be a teacher. It was her dream. It was the thing that excited her during her childhood.
Well, we all know that life isn’t always fair; and at the age of five, Annie was diagnosed with Trachoma, and went blind. Two years later, her mother died. Her father then abandoned her and her little brother, as he feared he wouldn’t be able to raise them. A year later, her brother died. She was left alone… and blind.
This is starting to sound like a bad story, right? That little girl had the option of giving up and becoming a victim. She could have, but she didn’t. The dream had her and she pursued it.
Let me rush through the facts to get to the point; in June 1886, she graduated at age 20 as the valedictorian, delivering the farewell for her class. She overcame all her difficulties to conclude her studies. She stood proud and addressed a full room: “Duty bids us go forth into active life. Let us go cheerfully, hopefully, and earnestly, and set ourselves to find our special part. And when we have found it, let us willingly and faithfully perform it.” This still gives me goosebumps. The blind and abandoned orphan delivering a motivational speech.
Of course, her attitude towards life amidst her circumstances opened many doors – life has a way of rewarding confidence, resilience and determination. It’s the order of things. She started working as a teacher – Miss Annie Sullivan.
Parallel to that, 6 years before Annie’s graduation, a little girl was born in Alabama. This little girl was blind and deaf. She couldn’t communicate with the external world. She couldn’t voice her desires and opinions. Her father, Arthur Keller, was a well respected US Army Captain. To cut a long story short, this girl, Helen Keller, needed a teacher. Destiny brought Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan together. Two different backgrounds and lives.
According to accounts, Annie Sullivan managed to break through into Helen’s completely isolated world. The rest is history: what would be the world without Helen Keller and her contribution to society, via her books, political insights and lecturing. Helen was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelors degree. She broke records. How can a deaf-blind person change the world by her beliefs and expressions? Think about that? Blind. Deaf. It’s phenomenal, but furthermore: who was Annie Sullivan?
Our struggles unlock someone else’s resolutions. I will say it again: Our struggles unlock someone else’s resolutions. Our fights, our shame, our difficulties are in place to facilitate progress. We never know what our struggles will birth. There wouldn’t be a Helen Keller without an Annie Sullivan.
Annie Sullivan, the girl that society had forgotten, the girl that seemed destined to be a nobody. The very same girl introduced Helen Keller to education, activism and international stardom. Mark Twain describes Annie as Miracle Worker. Annie’s life birthed the Helen Keller we know. The Helen that changed the world.
To conclude this story, Annie and Helen were together for 49 years. Annie died with Helen holding her hand. She was the first woman in history to be recognised and celebrated for her achievements.
What story will you leave behind? What adjective will your life carry? What will people say about your purpose? What is your life birthing?
Let me carry on… someone asked Helen Keller “what could be worse than being born blind?“. She replied “it would be so much worse to be born with sight, but no vision”. Think about that.
I don’t care who you are, what gender, race or age. I don’t care about that right now, it’s not important. What I do know for sure is that IF your heart is beating right now, that means you have a dream inside of you. A dream that perhaps you are keeping hidden from the world. A dream that, perhaps, you’re making excuses for; you’re delaying it. You’ve listened to your family and friends telling you to be realistic, begging you to be realistic. And perhaps, you’ve given up. Deep down in your heart, you know that you’re not living up to your potential and life is now something you’re just getting on with. My question is why!? I include myself to this audience.
Let me further this thought by asking; what is the wealthiest place in the world? Dr Myles Munroe used to ask this question with so much passion and zeal. The wealthiest place on earth isn’t Dubai, China, Wall Street nor the Cayman Islands, it’s the graveyard. There you will find inventions never invented. Business that never opened their doors. Songs never sang. Books never written. Ideas never nurtured. People that never fulfilled their purpose because they were scared to take a risk… they were scared, just like you and me. But, here’s the interesting part: we’re not in the graveyard yet, we are here.
We have one life and every moment that passes will never come back. We will never brush our teeth the same way twice in our lives. There won’t be another today. There’s no rewind button in life…. Take a deep breath – for real, take a deep breath, you see, it doesn’t matter how wealthy, intelligent or powerful you are, you will never get that breath back. Ever. This present moment is so precious, we have to be here now because this is all we have. We have to be in it and make the most of it. We have to live the dreams that picked us now because they are possible.
Who would’ve thought that Annie would succeed and on top of it, that she would meet Helen Keller and usher her into her majestic impactful life? It’s possible. You see, the airplane is a bit over 100 years old. There was no cellphone 40 years ago; there was no internet. There was no google before 1997. So, don’t you sit here and tell me that everything that can be done has been done when we haven’t been here for very long. There are dreams, there are ideas and accomplishments that are waiting to be discovered, they are waiting for you.
Why can’t we have a cure for every disease known to man? Why can’t we have clean water, food and education for everyone on this planet? Why can’t we have peace? Why do we have to die to go to heaven? The earth is already in space. We can have heaven right here and right now. It’s a mind shift, it’s a placement. It’s a reality. Why not? It’s not because someone said it’s impossible that it can’t be done. Look at Annie and Helen. Against all odds. Let me tell you this, there has never been a statue erected for a critic; for the people that always tell you that you’re wrong but they have never gotten it right; there are no statues for people that play it safe.
The moral of the story is: do you. Be you. And be here now. Your dreams are possible. Stop obsessing about what happened to other people, about gossip and the unknown. Live your life, step into your greatness. It’s said that the average person dies at 25 but is only buried at 75. Do you know what that means? I will let you figure it out. But don’t let this negative world get to you. Don’t let it win. Do not go where the path may lead, but go where there’s no path and leave a trail.
Every Helen needs an Annie. Every success needs a struggle. Every victory needs risks. Don’t you die on me, on us. Live your life. Do not give up. It’s never too late. Anything is possible.
You know what I’ve learned about Helen and Annie? In adversity, some people break; but others break records. It’s the understanding that the helping hand we need, most of the time, is at the end of our own arm. We’re ready to fulfil the dreams that picked us. We are empowered.
The authenticity of your being is the answer to someone else’s cry, someone’s hope. Be loyal to our future, not your past. So, quit hiding your magic, we’re ready for you.
Remember: courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the realisation that something is more important than that fear.
But if you’re to give in to fear, fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.
I will ask you again: what story will you leave behind? What adjective will you carry? What will people say? Miracle Worker or fearful?
I will finish this by quoting Helen Keller.
“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”
We need you. Do you. Be you. Be here now. Be a voice, not an echo.