A Surreal Experience: Touching Helen Keller's Desk
by Jessica Minneci
When I touched
the smooth glass-topped surface of Helen Keller's desk at the APH museum, I was
shocked. The texture beneath my fingertips revealed a normal, average desk. It
was like something you would find at a furniture store: a large desk with two
sets of drawers on either side, a wide surface, and a wooden guard to protect
papers from sliding off. But make no mistake, this ordinary desk represents
much more than it appears. Helen Keller did some of her finest work while
sitting at her desk. She was a writer, a pacifist, a feminist, and an advocate
for women and for the blind and visually impaired community. Touching the desk
helped me get closer to Helen Keller and renew my support for everything she
Many people can
discover wisdom from Helen's piece "To Girls Who Are Going to
College." Published in The Youth's Companion on June 8, 1905, she gives emerging college
students tips about how to be successful in postsecondary school. One piece of
advice stood out among the rest and is something that all workers should take
into account. Helen emphasizes to her readers that they should be happy in
everything that they do. She wrote, “Joy is the holy fire that keeps our
purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Work without joy shall be as nothing.
Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invisible host against
difficulties." In today's world, people are often told to take a job that
will provide them with a lot of money so that they can live a comfortable life.
However, money does not buy happiness. Rather, doing rewarding work creates
happiness. Everyone deserves a career where they can do what they love.
|Hands on an open drawer of Helen Keller's desk on display at APH|
|Black and white photo of Helen working at her desk|
Helen Keller is admired for her many contributions to social action, peace, and rights of women and those who are blind or visually impaired. As a writer and a person who thirsts for new knowledge, I especially love her words of wisdom about happily serving others. For these and numerous other reasons, touching Helen's desk was a surreal experience as I touched one of the possessions of an inspiring deaf-blind woman. At a glance, the desk looks like a simple piece of furniture, but it is more than that. It stands as a symbol of Helen Keller's life and the work that she did to help others. If you are an admirer of Helen Keller, go visit APH and experience the desk. In doing so, remind yourself of what Helen Keller means to you.
Jessica Minneci is a marketing associate at APH.A creative writing major in college, she is a free verse poet and aspiring
novelist who enjoys spending time with her guide dog Joyce.