Finding a Culture of Life in Adversity 

by Olivia Rivera, grade 11

Living a culture of life is a choice to live in the inspiration of Christ. We can learn from people who have carried their own crosses to get an understanding of what it is like to live in the light of Christ. Humility, respect, and love all work together to form a culture of life that is important to living a meaningful life. All of these traits allow us to become closer to God. We learn from the life of Christ what it means to carry our crosses and give up everything for Him so that we may be rewarded at our time of death. Jesus Himself had to carry the cross of being constantly persecuted. Helen Keller bore her cross to overcome and advocate for those who struggle daily. She has inspired many people to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. 

When Helen Keller was born, she had a happy and healthy life. She later got gravely ill and lost her eyesight and hearing. Her family did not know how to deal with her disability; they wanted to help and understand her, but unfortunately, they could not. Her family hired a teacher named Anne Sullivan to help Helen learn and accomplish the goal of one day being able to lead the life of a typical child. Anne Sullivan worked with diligence and persistence to teach Helen a way of communication that had not been taught before. Through this innovative way of teaching, Helen learned the names of objects by Anne spelling them in her hands. Eventually, Helen was able to read braille and even write; her family was elated at the progress she was able to achieve. 

Helen had to take up her cross of not being able to communicate with her family, having to learn in ways that seemed impossible, and overcoming these challenges. This was a tremendous accomplishment for her. Helen Keller worked immensely hard to continue to learn and become the brilliant and inspiring human being she was. 

Helen Keller is a major influential historical figure for all people with disabilities. She advocated for those who did not have the voice or recognition to do so. Keller used her platform for the good of others. In a letter to Mark Twain, Helen explained that all life should be treated equally and with respect, and that no talent should be wasted because of a disability. Keller said that people with disabilities should not be shut down; they should be given the same opportunities. Jesus loves all people equally and we learn in the Bible that Jesus restored the heath of many people who were diseased or had disabilities. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3-5). In this quote, the “works of God” could be referring to the carrying of our own daily crosses. We need inspiring examples like Helen Keller to show us that our crosses and burdens were not put upon us to bring us down; they bring us closer to God in heaven. The acceptance of our daily struggles is a way to show God that we would do anything for Him and that we love Him unconditionally.

When I think about all the hard work and adversity that Helen Keller overcame to learn these new skills, I think of my cousin Lauren. When Lauren was born, she was diagnosed with a severe form of autism. When she was younger it was extremely difficult for her to learn and develop like other kids in her class. Her disability is part of her character and allows her to be who she really is inside; she is not afraid of people judging her and is able to express herself through dance and music. Lauren recently graduated from high school and is applying to go to a college that has a special program designed for people like her with disabilities. These students need an environment where they can work at their own pace and not have the pressures of a traditional school. It has been a challenge for Lauren to get accepted into schools because of her disability, but she has not given up and will continue to work toward her goal despite her disability. 

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Jesus tells us that, no matter what, we need to pick up our crosses and follow Him so that we may be with Him in the kingdom of God. When we do this, we are living with the life of Christ within us. While we carry our crosses, we live our lives to serve others. Living a culture of life allows us to carry our crosses with meaning because we know what Jesus sacrificed for us. People like Helen Keller inspire us to live in the light of Christ and give up our own self-pity to live for Him and the good of others. When we embrace our suffering like Jesus did on the cross, we build a culture of life through our love of God. 

© 2018 Olivia Rivera. Published with permission.