In the article, Three Days to See, Helen Keller talks about herself and about what all she would like to do if she was fortunate enough to get her sense of sight and be able to see the world even if it may be just for three days.
Helen Keller begins by saying that it would be a blessing if each human being went blind and deaf for a few days sometime during his/her early adult life. She is not being cruel or unkind but is only trying to make us realize that we take many things in life for granted. We complain about things that we may not have but never stop to appreciate what we do have. If we cannot see we would learn to appreciate the sight. If we cannot hear, we would learn to enjoy the joys of sound.
Keller tells her readers how she often tests her friends, who are able to see, by asking them questions about what they have seen. To help us understand her point further, she gives the example of a friend who is questioned by Keller. The friend has just returned from a walk through the woods. When Keller asks her what she had observed, she is surprised to hear the friend’s reply ‘Nothing in particular’. Keller is surprised and unable to understand how someone can walk for one hour in the woods and not observe anything that is worth noting.
Keller, who is blind and cannot see gives her own example to help us understand how even through the sense of touch she is able to find hundreds of things that interest her. She recounts how she is able to feel the beauty of a leaf, the smoothness of a birch tree or the roughness of a pine. When it is springtime, she says she tries to search for buds which are the first signs of Nature waking up after the long winter sleep. If she is very fortunate, she is at times able to feel the song of a bird through the quiver she feels when she places her hands on the tree on which the bird is singing.
It is not surprising that Keller longs to be able to actually see these things. If they can give her so much pleasure merely from touch, they must surely be much more beautiful by sight. This leads her to a list of things she would like to do if she is given the use of her eyes even if it be just for three days. We now understand where the title of the piece has come from.
Keller’s list of things she would like to do when able to see makes us realize how we take so many things for granted in life. We do not appreciate the beauty around us, we do not even value the simple but essential comforts of life such as the comfort of looking into a friendly face.
On the first day, Keller says she would want to see those people who have stood by her as friends and companions and have made her life worth living. All along she has merely been able to touch their faces and knows them by the sensation of touch. Once she has her sight however she is sure she would be able to see into the heart of a friend through the eyes which are the ‘windows to the soul.’
Her plan is that on the first day she would be busy calling upon all her friends and looking into their faces so that the external beauty that she sees as proof of the internal beauty would remain etched in her memory always. She says she would also like to look into the face of a baby so she can see beauty in all its innocence. The same innocence is lost when life surrounds us with conflicts. The next thing she lists are the books that have been read to her and that have taught her much about human nature and life. She does not forget her loyal dogs, the little Scottie and the Great Dane, both of whom have proved to be of immense help to her. She wants to look into their eyes too.
On the second day, Keller wants to wake up with the sunrise and see how the night is transformed into day. Most of us do not pay any attention to these things and just consider them as daily occurrences. When we look at the same things from Keller’s point of view, however, we realize how much beauty accompanies events that may be happening on a daily basis. On this second day, Keller says she would also like to visit the museums to see ‘the condensed history of the earth.’
The next morning, on the third day, Keller heads towards the city for she wishes to spend this day in the work-a-day world. Here she wants to observe men going about their daily business of life. She plans to merely stand at a corner and look at people. Seeing smiles would make her happy while seeing suffering would make her compassionate. At the close of the third day, Keller says that she would want to do many things but is afraid that on the evening of the last day she would just run away to the theatre to enjoy a funny play which is evidence of comedy in the human spirit.
Keller’s wish-list talks of very simple things which most of us take no note of because for us they are easily available. Her list however has surely made us realize that there is much beauty around us that goes unappreciated. Even at the close of the third day, Keller does not end with any sense of regret. There is no ranting and fuming at God who has denied her these simple pleasures. Instead, there is a desire to laugh, to appreciate the comedy in the human spirit and she ends by saying that she might just run off to watch and enjoy a hilarious play.