INSIDE ANNE SULLIVAN’S GRACE & GRIT BOX
Putting together Anne’s box contents was a process that can only be described as “hard easy.” We started with the accessory and very much wanted to highlight the moment when Anne’s devotion set Helen free. We knew this had to have something to do with the hands. Touch means so much to a person – our hands comfort others, wipe away tears, hug, but they can also push and pull.
Anne had to push and pull Helen throughout her childhood. She also used touch to let Helen know she was next to her. It was the way they communicated. Anne’s voice to Helen came by way of touch.
We weren’t sure what accessory we were going to create until we stumbled on the idea of using gloves. Gloves would perfectly illustrate hands. But they couldn’t be just any gloves; they had to be fingerless gloves. These gloves would set the fingers free – just as Anne’s push-and-pull taught Helen how to use her fingers to speak to the world, setting her free.
The charm that was used needed to be a physical expression of the word Devotion and yet tie into Anne’s life work. The charm that eventually was chosen is the hand sign for “I love you” in American Sign Language.
Love is a form of devotion, and being able to tell someone “I love you” is a way of letting them know you are devoted to their life and want what is best for them. Anne was completely devoted to her student. I remember teaching and truly loving my students,wanting the best for them and taking an interest in their lives. Anne immersed herself in Helen’s life and our charm is the perfect symbol of this devotion.
Our illustrator, Anni, is excellent at bringing out the spirit of each of our Grace & Grit ladies. Anni drew Anne standing at the infamous water pump. For those who don’t know, the water pump is where Anne’s devotion to Helen finally paid off. Up until this point, whenever Helen wanted something to drink she would make one general sign for “drink.” Her family had to guess what exactly she wanted to drink. Helen, in all of her frustration, would throw temper tantrums until her family finally figured out what exactly she wanted to drink – tea, water, lemonade? However, at the water pump, Helen finally understood water had an actual name and how she could ask for it. Water is not called “drink.” It is called “water.” After her epiphany, Helen’s frustration started to decrease along with her temper tantrums. (Can you imagine Anne’s relief at that?)
Another detail I love about the illustration is that Anne’s eye are full of compassion and she is holding out one hand. I imagine she is looking at Helen and getting ready to reach for her to gently pull her out of her darkness and into a world full of words and signs.
In our devotion box, the Play-it-Forward cards focus on two things: thanking those who have inspired you or have been devoted to you; and recognizing other girls who have overcome a hardship in their lives, such as Anne did. When we recognize a service that someone has done on your behalf or we recognize the struggle one has overcome, we connect with each other. Devotion cannot happen without a true connection between two people.
There are cards to give to girls who inspire, cards to give to those who made your day a little better, and cards to give girls who have overcome a hardship in life. The Play-it-Forward cards are my way of inspiring girls to empower others – an idea to which I will always be devoted to.
Anne’s journal was fun to write. To be honest, I knew a lot about Helen Keller, but I didn’t know very much about her very devoted teacher, Anne Sullivan. Anne was so devoted to her student that she spent all of her adult life with Helen. Researching Anne’s life was an interesting and at times heartbreaking discovery. Her life was tough – she lost her mom, brother, and sister, and her dad abandoned her early in life. Not to mention, Anne was partially blind as well. Yet the really cool thing about Anne is she kept everything in perspective and she never shied away from seizing the moment, working hard, or trying to connect with others.
The activities in the journal are designed to get your mind thinking: What elicits your devotion? Who has been devoted to you? How do you problem-solve when the goals you have devoted your time to become hard and frustrating?
Each month when I place the contents of Anne’s box all together, I am reminded of how her hard life turned into such inspiration for others – how she used her grace and immense amount of grit to make one young girl's life better. I hope Anne’s box inspires you to reach out and find a cause that your girl can promote and place her devotion and energy behind. And, hopefully, her newfound devotion can help her to make the world a better place.