Maya Angelou’s death has hit me especially hard perhaps because I never got to meet her though I always wanted to. Never got to tell her how much her work had meant throughout my life and uncertainties. Never had the chance to sit at her feet and have her help me find the incredible “me” still lurking inside, yet I know I am wiser, richer, and more phenomenal because of her life and words. We all are.
The powerful lessons she taught through living and sharing her amazing life and in what remains which we haven’t even acknowledged or realized in her dying and death, all provide a rich tapestry for introspection for us womenfolk. Where are we? What are we doing with our voices? What can we teach and learn today that will make our lives and the world richer, more peaceful, less confusing, worth the while? Her wise words are all around us but here are four of my favorite passages:
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
As women, we MUST become more aware of ourselves and the world around us— we are powerful, smart, important, and we have something to say (about almost everything). We must flex our collective strength, clout and interest or our humanity goes to hell in a hand basket. I’ve seen poverty and hopelessness from Rio de Janeiro to Appalachia, from the school cafeteria to the dusty, hollow-eyed sisters on the streets, and it looks the same. We must go, see, hear and understand each other for God’s sake.
“Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
I saw two rainbows Tuesday and I praised God for the gentle reminder that in my words and deeds I can be the difference between lifting up and tearing down. It took me a while to discover my “call” but once I got it, I “GOT IT!” It’s spreading sunshine—almost the same thing as being a rainbow since you can get both after the rain. Today don’t miss your chance to roll away some clouds.
“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”
Confucius puts it this way: “If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.” I call it my “Mrs. Potato Head Syndrome.” I took up the positives from some of my favorite people over the years and did my darndest to leave behind what my mother called my “ugly ways.” Whether it’s punctuality, my love for beautiful jewelry, fragrances and compelling books, or how I carry myself, Confucius and Dr. Angelou are right. Every day we get a new opportunity to re-invent ourselves. Certainly it’s not so simplistic as deciding, but making the decision to change, to improve, to soar is absolutely a great start.
”One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”