Free

Helen and Annie

Helen Keller taking a speech lesson from Annie Sullivan. 1890s. City of Boston ArchivesCC-BY

Every renaissance comes to the world with a cry, the cry of the human spirit to be free.

—Anne Sullivan

Today I am thinking of the twelve Thai boys trapped in the flooded cave with their soccer coach for over two weeks. They’re almost all rescued now; the world holds its collective breath for the news that the final boy is free, as well as the coach, to be saved last.

They wrote letters, the boys. To their parents, telling them not to worry, that they love them.

Parents wrote letters to the boys . . . telling them not to worry, that they love them.

The letters are now a celebration of life. Of freedom. Of overcoming those long, unimaginable days in the depths of the cave, at the mercy of an unpredictable sea, of hunger, of separation, of darkness.

Words of hope . . . for, as Alexander Pope wrote long ago: Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Words of survival. I think of Anne Sullivan’s words on “the cry of the human spirit to be free” and how, as a teacher, despite the magnitude of the task, that it was uncharted territory, she reached into the depths of Helen Keller’s dark, silent, anguished world to give her a voice, to set her free.

Helen’s own words: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

A freelance writer recently told me: “I teach writing to prisoners in North Carolina. It’s a powerful thing to see, someone with no voice suddenly having a voice. Despite all the restrictions, if you can write, you are free.”

The cry of the human spirit.

That is, above all, why we write.

For ourselves, for one another, for freedom, for hope.

For life.

15 thoughts on “Free

    • Here’s a funny thing: I started this post back in March with the title “Teacherlove.” I meant to write about teachers who’ve encouraged me along life’s journey, but I couldn’t get it to come together. The post has been sitting, untouched, with only the picture and caption all this time. Then today, the boys’ rescue, their story of freedom, their letter-writing, caused the ideas to collide and fuse … I changed the title and let ‘er rip. Writing is an endlessly fascinating business. Thank you for your words and for your heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have been transfixed by the story of the Wild Boars…I feel like I’m holding my breath along with the rest of the world for their ultimate release from this harrowing ordeal. I’m choosing to look at this rescue as a reminder that even in times of darkness and despair, when people work together, great things happen. I think this applies to writing too; when we all write, the world is a better place. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so right, Abby – we’re meant to help each other through times of darkness and despair. It’s the best of humanity. I celebrate your seeing the connection to writing – indeed, making the world a better place. I am deeply grateful for your thoughts.

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  2. Oh! I, too, have been transfixed by the story of the Thai boys, and your ability to connect that situation, their writing, to Helen Keller, to inmates, to our own humanity has deepened my thinking this morning. Thank you. Thank you for this thoughtful piece and for your patience as you waited for it to come together followed by your daring in writing when the final piece fell into place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a completely different piece than it would have been had I pressed on at the start – thank you, Amanda, for saying how it “deepened your thinking.” All I know is that today, it suddenly felt right, and that your words here fill me with such gladness. Thank you!

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  3. Your post brings to mind a wonderful professor I had in undergraduate studies. He approached US History, specifically the Civil War period, by sharing letters to and from the battle front. Those personal stories made the class relevant and so much more interesting than a dry textbook rendition of those times. Writing sets us free to learn, too.

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    • Excellent points about primary sources: That letters especially immerse the reader in the era, and that we are drawn by the personal stories and experiences. An excellent professor, yes. And thank you most of all for that final zinger – writing sets us free to learn. Yes! It does, in so many ways.

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  4. Another member of the rescue fan club checking in. Joyful news! I really enjoyed reading your explanation of how your post today “came together” after patiently waiting for the right inspiration. That has happened to me occasionally. It’s such a wonderful feeling when the lightning bolt hits and the piece practically writes itself. Today you hit a homerun. Thanks for your inspiration.

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    • That part about waiting seems to strike people like a bolt today; how interesting! I guess I’d say a troublesome piece may just be waiting for the missing ingredients to come along. Thank you for your words, Barbara. I never hit an actual home run in my life but to hear that I have with words … can’t feel any less exhilarating!

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  5. I’ve missed reading your insights. I’ve always admired how you’ve been able to tie things together in a way that I never would be able to. I’m so happy that they’ve all been freed and the families are being reunited.

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    • Hi, Friend! Good to “see” you again. It’s truly a wondrous thing that all the boys and the coach lived to be rescued, yet tragic that someone died trying to save them. Much emotion attached to all of this and to their letter-writing. As far as tying things together… all things connect, somehow, if you follow the threads far enough… when I write, things knit themselves together. They just do. You can do it. You’re passionate about writing and your heart shows in your work … always a delight. Thank you so much.

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  6. I am rejoicing with you about this news story as well. Thank you for sharing the writing ties to the story. I would have missed a very important part of the saga!
    Such a wonderful and uplifting post!

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