Newsletter by Barbara Mintzer

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

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November 2003
The Story of Laura Bridgman

As leaders in health care and business, one of the challenges we have today is motivating the people who work for us to be all they can be.  To instill in each person a vision of who they can be and what they can attain, regardless of where their starting point may be.  I have been inspired by people I have met who have started at the very lowest rung of a company and who have steadily worked their way up in the company to positions of leadership. I was thinking about these people as I was putting together this Newsletter and I received an e-mail from a colleague, Larry Crider, with a wonderful story that illustrates the point that every person has value and every person can make a contribution.  With Larry's 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 wa 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 Gridley 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 as we enter the season of Thanksgiving.  You may also want to ask your staff to think about the skills and talents they are thankful for, and how they can use them to move your department or organization closer to the 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.

For a limited time, my book  "Thriving in the Midst of Change" and the t-shirt "I'm not pushed by my problems, I'm led by my dreams" are available at Conference pricing.  If you would like to say thank you to your staff and show them appreciation for the wonderful work they do, this is a cost-effective way to do that.  The book is available for $15 each, two for $25, and I will be happy to autograph them for you.  The t-shirts are available for $12 each, three for $30.  All t-shirts come in Large, and will fit most people.  You can purchase a book and a t-shirt for $25.  Tax is already included in the prices; please add $3.50 for shipping. Visit my website  for a description of the above book.

About the Author

Barbara Mintzer is an expert who speaks professionally.  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 conferences and conventions, management retreats and in-house seminars.  She also facilitates panel discussions and roundtables.  To explore the possibility of having Barbara work with your leadership team or speak at your next event, please contact her office.

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

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