Summary: There is no friend like the friend we have in Jesus.
Oh What a Friend!
There are a lot of things friends share today -- secrets, tickets to a ballgame, notes for a test, cars, time, a shoulder to cry on, a warm handshake of welcome, and much more; but the greatest thing a friend could ever share with someone he or she truly cares about is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. All of the ideal attributes which we would hope to find in a friend -- compassion, care, concern, encouragement -- all of these find their ultimate expression in Jesus and no other.
When we experience a friendship that we truly treasure, one that touches our life in a deep and lasting way, it is because that friend models the character of Jesus to us. Such was the case with one little girl named Helen Keller and her friend Anne Sullivan.
Helen Keller was one of the world’s most renowned women. As a little girl, Helen didn’t have the benefit of sight or sound, but she grew up to be one of the world’s most famous women. Most everyone has heard of the great accomplishments of Helen Keller, but not as many people have heard about the person who took an angry little girl and offered her friendship, understanding, compassion, and nurture. Helen Keller had a friend!
Anne Sullivan was born at Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, in poverty, in affliction. She was half blind. Her mother died when she was young and as a result, Anne had to move to the orphanage where all of the unwanted children stayed. Then, later in life, at the Perkins Institute for the Blind, a brilliant operation restored Anne’s sight. Thereafter she devoted her life to the care of the blind.
Meanwhile, down south, a little girl was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama. When she was only 19 months old, Helen Keller was stricken with an acute illness that left her deaf and blind. No method could be found to educate her until the age of seven, when she began her special education in reading and writing with Anne Sullivan of the Perkins Institute for the Blind.
Meeting Anne Sullivan proved to be a real turn around for Helen. Anne Sullivan, the woman who had faced the trials of blindness and losing her mother early on in life, would prove to be the friend that Helen needed. At first, Helen was angry, obstinate, and most difficult to work with. It would have been so easy for Anne Sullivan to give up on the little girl, but she saw in Helen what Helen could not see in herself, so she persisted in loving, caring, and sharing her life with the little girl.
In just two weeks, Anne taught Helen thirty words, spelling them out by touching Helen’s hand. Under this system, Helen Keller rose to greatness. She quickly learned to read by the Braille system and to write by means of a specially constructed typewriter. In 1890, Helen learned to speak after only one month of study. Ten years later, she was able to enter Radcliffe College, from which she graduated with honors in 1904.
Following graduation, Helen served on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. Throughout her life she worked and raised funds for the American Foundation for the Blind, and she traveled and lectured in many countries, including England, France, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, and Japan.
After World War II (1939-1945), she visited wounded veterans in American hospitals and lectured in Europe on behalf of the physically handicapped. She wrote several books which include, The Story of My Life (1902), The World I Live In (1908), Out of the Dark (1913), Midstream-My Later Life (1930), Let Us Have Faith (1940), Teacher: Anne Sullivan Macy (1955), and The Open Door (1957). Her life is the subject of a motion picture, The Unconquered (1954), and a play, The Miracle Worker (1959; motion picture, 1962.)
Helen never forgot her dear friend whom she cherished for more than forty-nine years. The time came when misfortune befell Anne Sullivan, who meanwhile had become Mrs. Macy. What misfortune you might ask? Anne became blind. Suddenly the teacher became the pupil, and the pupil became the student. Helen schooled her former teacher as devotedly as she herself had been schooled.
Finally, Helen Keller stood at the deathbed of her other half. When it was all over, she said, "I pray for strength to endure the silent dark until she smiles upon me again." Oh what a friend!"
Friendships like the one shared by Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan are difficult to cultivate. Most people experience friendship as a constant string of letdowns, heartaches, and frustration. It is as if we know what a real friend is, but so few of us experience what we know in our heart we desire. As a result of our broken friendships most of us end up crying out for something different than what we experience. Such was the case for Norma Jean.