The richness of the human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. —Helen Keller
My dad used to say that you have to experience the bad days to appreciate the good ones. I think Dad and Helen Keller were onto something. Helen Keller certainly had her limitations to overcome. Dad’s limitations were much different, but we all have trials and adversity to overcome.
I think we all know someone who seems to be an adversity magnet. No matter how wonderful and obedient, they seem to have one trial on top of another. Sometimes we say to ourselves that it’s just not fair. Going back to Helen Keller, it seems the ultimate cruelty that she was both deaf and blind. One trial would have been hard enough, but both? She says that overcoming her limitations enriched her life experience. We can only imagine the rewards she will reap in heaven.
Adversity will surface in some form in every life. How we prepare for it, how we meet it, makes the difference. We can be broken by adversity, or we can become stronger. The final result is up to the individual (Adversity and You, Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Oct. 1980 General Conference. )
Helen Keller was not broken by her limitations; she overcame them—and she became a shining example to all of us. We look to her strength to buoy up our own. Every obstacle she overcame became a pillar of light to us. She showed us the meaning of courage.
Is it possible that some of our limitations are for the benefit of others? I don’t presume to know God’s plan from the beginning to the end, but I do have personal experience with someone else’s adversity affecting my own outlook on life.
My oldest child was born with a lung cyst the size of a baseball—a rare condition that affects only 1 in 100,000 babies. This was complicated by the fact that the symptoms are exactly the same as another more common birth problem, and her condition was misdiagnosed. She had two major surgeries before she was twelve hours old. My little one was (and is) a fighter. We were not at all sure she would live, but she is now a wife, mother of two children, and a very successful aeronautical engineer. Yes, my daughter is a real life rocket scientist.
I was a young 22-year-old when my daughter was born. I had no idea what adversity was until that moment. I thought I was an all-knowing adult, but all my problems until that moment had been kid stuff. It was my daughter’s adversity that changed my life as it became my own adversity. I was thrown into the fiery pit by virtue of her trial. As she fought for her life (and later to live a normal life), she taught me to fight. My daughter overcoming her limitations helped me to grow up. I suddenly had to make very adult decisions about her life, and thus my own.
Later, I was to become the mother of other children who had physical issues at birth. I was much more capable to handle those trials by virtue of working through the first one. Do I personally believe some people have limitations for the benefit of others? Yes, I do. My children (particularly the first one—but all of them to some degree) have shown me how to deal with my own limitations by watching them overcome theirs. I think they will be rewarded in heaven for their courage, not only for their own life, but because their courage and tenacity made me a better person.
The Helen Kellers of this world live as an inspiration to us all. They teach us to live for every single moment. They teach us gratitude and appreciation for the things we would otherwise take for granted.
Going back to Helen Keller’s statement, as I have watched my children overcome their limitations, and as I have worked to overcome mine, the human experience is much richer and life more meaningful than it was when I was 22 years old. I’ve learned that life isn’t about how cool you are, or how many toys you have; it’s about people, and love, and caring for others. Life is about living through the hardships to see the good times.
It takes courage to live each day. When we rise in the morning, we don’t know what is out there to rock our world. We get up anyway with courage to face whatever trial appears. As we overcome our limitations, we no longer sweat the small stuff. We take life as it comes. That’s what Helen Keller tried to teach us—take life as it comes—and appreciate every flower, every cool breeze, and every ray of sunshine on our faces.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.