Newsletter by Barbara Mintzer

Barbara Mintzer's Newsletter
The Power of a Vision... a Leader's Journey

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July 2005
The Story of Laura Bridgman

Please accept my apologies for sending this Newsletter out so late this month.  I decided to add some vacation time on to the July 4th holiday, and have just gotten back to my office. I love my work, but it was WONDERFUL to just get away and forget about work (almost) for awhile. Since many of you may be on vacation as well, I have decided to share a very uplifting story with you for this month's Newsletter. I believe you will find this story meaningful whether you are at your workplace or enjoying some time away, as it illustrates the point that every person has value and every person can make a contribution. This story was given to me by my colleague, Larry Crider. With his permission, the following is that story:

Charles Dickens, the famous British author, visited America in 1842 and during that visit he met a young girl. He wrote of that visit in his book American Notes. The young girl impressed him even though at the time she was only 12 years old. Her name was Laura Bridgman. Born in Hanover , New Hampshire in 1829, Laura Bridgman was like any other child. She could see, hear, smell and taste just like other children. By the age of two she was speaking words and developing nicely. Then an epidemic of scarlet fever broke out. Laura's two older sisters died of the disease and Laura, too, was stricken with it.

Sick for quite a long time, Laura's parents eventually discovered that she had been so affected by the disease she could no longer see, hear, taste or smell. The only one of Laura's five senses left was her sense of touch. When visitors came to her home, however, they were impressed that Laura had learned to knead dough for bread. She could actually spin, sew, and knit a little. She could even set the table by feeling the shapes of the plates, spoons, etc.

One visitor who was fascinated with Laura was a young student from Dartmouth College . He was so impressed with her quickness and intelligence that he told one of his professors about her and the professor told Dr. Samuel Gridly Howe, the director of a school to educate the blind and deaf people of the area.

Soon Laura Bridgman was living at Dr. Howe's school and was being trained by Howe and his sister. Laura quickly learned the alphabet and how to arrange the letters into words of all kinds. She also learned how to "hear" by having the finger alphabet spelled into her hand. She even learned how to use this method to "speak" to others. Laura eventually learned arithmetic and geography, history and astronomy. She learned to read books from raised type, and wrote letters to her growing number of friends and admirers. She also did beautiful sewing and lacework and helped the teachers with other blind students.

All of this says that Laura learned to have a life and live satisfactorily, but she also contributed so much. Because she worked with other students to help them, she was able to help the teachers learn how to teach other students. One such teacher who learned how to teach the blind and the deaf from Laura Bridgman was Anne Sullivan. Anne Sullivan became arguably the most famous of such teachers. She took what she learned from Laura Bridgman and taught another young girl:  Helen Keller.

When Anne Sullivan left Laura Bridgman to go and teach Helen Keller, she took with her a doll that Laura herself had dressed and sent to Helen as a gift. In her 60th year of life Laura Bridgman met Helen Keller. Helen wanted to say thanks to Laura Bridgman, the woman who had once been a terrified little girl from New Hampshire . Helen Keller wanted to thank Laura for leading the way from darkness and silence into a world of communication.

I loved this story. Our lives may not be as dramatic as Laura Bridgman's, but it illustrates how each and every one of us can make a contribution to this world, regardless of where we start. This is a story you may want to share with your staff. You may want to ask your staff to think about the skills and talents they bring to their jobs, and how they use them to move your department or organization closer to the realization of your Vision. If you have an inspiring story you would like to share, please e-mail me. With your permission, I will share it with the readers of this Newsletter.

If you would like to receive Larry Crider's excellent column "Living and Learning" please e-mail Larry at: and he will put you on his database to receive it.   If you wish to pass my Newsletter along to a colleague who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive my Newsletter each month, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database. If you know of an organization or association that would benefit from my message, please let me know. Thanks so much; have a wonderful month.

About the Author

Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for getting buy-in and commitment from staff and staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables at the same meeting...a good investment for your meeting budget. To explore the possibility of having Barbara speak at your next event, or work with your staff/leadership team, please contact her office.

Phone: (805) 964-7546
FAX: (805) 964-9636

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