I arrive at the Shelby County Arts Council center. It’s early afternoon. I am here for the annual Helen Keller Art Show.
The parking lot is full of children. The kids are all dressed in their Sunday best. They are walking toward the building, accompanied by parents.
Several children hold white canes. Other kids use wheelchairs. Some are carried by their parents.
I see one blind young man run headfirst into a brick wall. He begins to cry. His mother holds him and begins crying alongside him. She is weepingly apologizing to her son for taking her attention off him.
“Hello,” says a tiny voice behind me.
“My name’s Henrietta,” says the little girl. “What’s yours?”
Henrietta is using a pink wheelchair. A seatbelt is buckled around her tiny waist. Her face is cherubic. She wears a black and white dress with a jean jacket. Her eyes are looking past me.
“My name is Sean,” I say.
“Is your art in the art show?”
“Oh, yes,” she says. “I won a Helen Keller award. I’m a winner.”
Henrietta has low vision. She can’t see well. Her eyes are just one of the many organs of her body with problems. Her physical issues stem from a mitochondrial disease.
The mitochondria are what turn sugar and oxygen into energy, so when your mitochondria don’t work, this affects different systems of your body: your brain, kidneys, muscles, heart, eyes, ears. Take your pick. A mitochondrial disease is not for wimps.
“I spend a lot of time in hospitals,” says Henrietta. “Sometimes, all I do is live in a hospital.”
The disease affects Henrietta’s immune system. Whenever Henrietta gets a common cold, it’s a big deal. When she gets the flu, it’s a national emergency; get her to the ICU.
“You must be a pretty fearless person,” I say.
“No way, I’m not fearless,” she says. “To be fearless means you’re never scared. I’m scared all the time.”
“Yep. I have fear, just like everybody else. I’m not fearless. I’m full of fear. I have to go to Philadelphia every few months to be in the hospital. I have to get poked with needles all the time. I have doctors always telling me bad stuff. I’m always tired. I always hurt. I’m not fearless. What I am is brave.”
“Yes. That means you’re afraid, but you keep going anyway. Even though you’re scared. You just do it. You just keep being you. You don’t stop.”
Henrietta didn’t feel like coming to the award show today. She woke up exhausted and in great pain. But she wanted to be here, she wanted her award, so she made herself come. She made herself get dressed. She made herself sit in her chair. She wheeled her chair down the aisle to accept her award.
She wants to be a fashion designer one day. And if that works out, she wants to use the profits to start a charity that donates toys and fun things to kids stuck in hospitals.
“Because when you’re in a hospital,” she says, “you’re pretty much alone.”
During the award ceremony, I watch Henrietta roll her pink chair down the aisle to receive her award for a painting she made. When the award hits her tiny hands, her words come over the microphone.
“Helen Keller was amazing,” Henrietta says. “She overcame difficult circumstances, I really hope people can say the same thing about me one day.”
Oh, they will, Henrietta. In fact, we already are.
Anne Arthur - January 30, 2023 11:08 am
Henrietta and the other kids with handicaps or serious illnesses are the true heroes in this world. It’s so admirable how they handle their life. Congratulations to Henrietta for her award.
Ernie in River City - January 30, 2023 11:25 am
Did you take Marigold?
Rhonda - January 30, 2023 12:04 pm
Gigi22 - January 30, 2023 1:20 pm
Henrietta—you are amazing! What an inspiration ♥️
mccutchen52 - January 30, 2023 1:33 pm
That makes me feel bad about the health complaints I have. She is one of the bravest people I have heard of.
Nancy - January 30, 2023 2:41 pm
Sean, you have the sense of sight, but your gift is seeing with your heart. Thank you for helping me see through your lens.
Patricia Gibson - January 30, 2023 3:58 pm
Prayers for her🙏 what an amazing light in the darkness ❤️
Linda Moon - January 30, 2023 4:02 pm
I’ll read the story later….because my first comment is that I had to go to Sean of the South.com to read this post. Posts have always come to my email inbox, but not now. Does anybody know what happened and how I can get posts back via emails?
Ellen F Bradford - January 30, 2023 5:38 pm
Same here. I tried to sign up again; but it said I was already signed up to receive the articles.
Helen Lane - January 30, 2023 9:49 pm
Linda the same thing has happened to me. I’ve been getting the Sean of the South in my email for years. Three days ago they stopped. I tried to sign up again but it says I’m already signed up and to check my inbox. But there isn’t anything in it from Sean. 😕
Helen Lane - January 30, 2023 9:53 pm
Sean i am in the same boat as some others in the comments about 3 days ago I stopped receiving these in my email. Have been getting them for years. It will not let you resubscribe because it says I already am and to check my inbox. Crickets, nothing there.
Jeannette - January 31, 2023 2:32 am
That’s interesting Linda. The same thing happened to me. I thought I had done something to cause it but guess not. I just signed up again so hopefully that will work. Thanks for posting your comment.
Pam Wilkinson - January 30, 2023 4:06 pm
Help! Am held hostage for days without getting morning email. Techno says I’m in the system. What now?
Michael - January 30, 2023 4:22 pm
Linda, i’m also having problems with Sean of the South today. I got two of his emails. When I went to Comments, it said Page Not Found, so I deleted it and went back to the first one and it seems to be ok.
I was going to comment that you can go to the Shelby County Arts Council facebook page to see the video of the Helen Keller presentations that were held yesterday. Really good talk by Sean and wonderful awards program for the artwork the children did.
Dawnie B - January 30, 2023 6:03 pm
Congratulations, Henrietta! The story of Helen Keller was the first important book I ever read, I believe I was 8 years old. I was so enthralled with her life that I taught myself sign language. It was displayed in the back of the book. We live in Alabama, so my family visited her childhood home one summer.
I am praying for you! May the Lord give you more and more strength to face these trials. Ask Him to take your hand and give Him your fear. He is your Helper and He loves you very much ❤️
Susie, as well - January 30, 2023 6:44 pm
I’m glad that I’m not the only one not receiving my posts via email. Have not received it in around three days. So I read it here, but email is way better. Maybe Sean can get it fixed or tell us what we can do.
Linda Moon - January 30, 2023 6:47 pm
My husband and I visited The Helen Keller Museum in Tuscumbia a few years ago. It left quite an impression on both of us. So, tell Henrietta if you see her again that My Guy and I say, “She’s Amazing!”
Linda Moon - January 30, 2023 6:53 pm
pattymack43 - January 30, 2023 8:39 pm
YES!!! We are!! Congrats to Henrietta and all of the attendees to the awards show!! We, the American public (or at least, a part of us!), are very proud of you!! We look forward to hearing more about all that you are accomplishing. Blessings to all!!
pattymack43 - January 30, 2023 8:43 pm
Glad to hear that my lack of Sean in the morning over the weekend, was not the only one. Hope that all is corrected in “e-world”. Can’t live without my Sean read each and every morning!!!
Linda Moon - January 30, 2023 9:21 pm
So…my favorite book about Helen Keller is “HELEN AND TEACHER, The story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy”. My old and well-read pages from several readings of it is loved!
MAM - January 30, 2023 10:39 pm
You turned on the eye spigots again today, Sean. Happy tears for Henrietta and her award and bravery. Thanks for all of your positive writings, Sean!
Helen Lane - January 30, 2023 11:07 pm
Can’t get Sean of the South in my inbox any more like others on this feed.
conkledavid - January 31, 2023 1:34 am
Thank you Sean – a great read today