I rummaged through my old files, and curated articles looking for anything to read again. Sometimes I like doing that because it refreshes my memory and it provides me with specific and supplementary information I need (aside from google-ing) to support my articles.
And so I chanced up on this folder that was given out to all the delagates from different countries in the Asia Pacific. I was one of the delegates representing the Center where I worked. This handout brought me back to that day when I attended the International Montessori Society workshop couple of years ago.
The workshop was conducted by Lee Havis. Lee Havis was the Executive Director of the IMS. I felt so honored to meet him in person for the first time. I flipped through the pages of the handout when a piece of paper that was not attached to it fell on the floor. I picked it up and read the words printed large and bold that says “An Inspiring True Story”. I have already forgotten about this short story. I can’t even remember If I have read it before when the handouts were given. In short, it doesn’t ring a bell now. I took some minutes to read it and I was very surprised at myself why on earth I haven’t read it then. It is a great read especially for all the teachers like me. Very inspiring indeed.
SO now, I thought I would share the story here – copied as it is from the article. And this I dedicate to all the teachers around the world who strive to make life more meaningful for the children.
The Story goes like this…
“Floor maid at the Tewksbury Institute”
Dr. Frank Mayfield was touring Tewksbury Institute when, on his way out, he accidentally collided with an elderly floor maid. To cover the awkward moment Dr. Mayfield started asking questions, “How long have you worked here?” “I’ve worked here almost since the place opened,” the maid replied.
“What can you tell me about the history of this place?” he asked. “I don’t think I can tell you anything, but I could show you something.” With that, she took his hand and led him down to the basement under the oldest section of the building.
She pointed to one of what looked like small prison cells, their iron bars rusted with age, and said, “That’s the cage where they used to keep Annie.” “Who’s Annie?” the doctor asked. “Annie was a young girl who was brought in here because she was incorrigible – which means nobody could do anything with her. She’d bite and scream and throw her food at people.
The doctors and nurses couldn’t even examine her or anything. I’d see them trying with her spitting and scratching at them. I was only a few years younger than her myself and I used to think, ‘I sure would hate to be locked up in a cage like that.’ I wanted to help her, but I didn’t have any idea what I could do. I mean, if the doctors and nurses couldn’t help her, what could someone like me do? “I didn’t know what else to do, so I just baked her some brownies one night after work.
The next day I brought them in. I walked carefully to her cage and said, ‘Annie I baked these brownies just for you. I’ll put them right here on the floor and you can come and get them if you want.’ Then I got out of there just as fast as I could because I was afraid she might throw them at me. But she didn’t. She actually took the brownies and ate them.
“After that, she was just a little bit nicer to me when I was around. And sometimes I’d talk to her. Once, I even got her laughing. One of the nurses noticed this and she told the doctor.
They asked me if I’d help them with Annie. I said I would if I could. So that’s how it came about that every time they wanted to see Annie or examine her, I went into the cage first and explained and calmed her down and held her hand. Which is how they discovered that Annie was almost blind.” After they’d been working with her for about a year – and it was tough sledding with Annie – the Perkins institute for the Blind opened its doors. They were able to help her and she went on to study and became a teacher herself. Annie came back to the Tewksbury Institute to visit, and to see what she could do to help out. At first, the Director didn’t say anything and then he thought about a letter he’d just received.
A man had written to him about his daughter. She was absolutely unruly – almost like an animal. He’d been told she was blind and deaf as well as ‘deranged’ He was at his wit’s end, but he didn’t want to put her in an asylum. So he wrote here to ask if we knew of anyone-any teacher-who would come to his house and work with his daughter. And that is how Annie Sullivan became the lifelong companion of 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 a floor maid at the Tewksbury Institute.”
My Final Words: My personal outlook on this is about this “SIMPLE ACT OF KINDNESS”. We do not know how far simple act of kindness would go. Being Educators, considering the challenges we encounter everyday, it is not a piece of cake to do one simple act of kindness.
It takes a considerable amount of effort and practice. Truth is, it shouldn’t be like that, it should come naturally because of innate humaneness that we have. But one thing I am pretty sure of, if we put this in practice, it can definitely change the world.
Note: I did some little research on this and I actually found a few articles/stories that are the same. You may check them out here.