Monday, June 2, 2014

When Words Matter...A Tribute

"A bird doesn't sing because it has the answers,
 it sings because it has a song."
Last week, we lost someone whose words have seen me through so much rough terrain. Whose words have mellowed me, comforted me, and mentored me. It should be known that I'm a closet poet. I read it. Write it. Love it. I'm addicted to the rhythm and the rhymes and it is what first attracted me to the mind and soul of Maya Angelou.

From first learning of the anguish and pride of the caged bird singing, to her reciting of  "Pulse of the Morning" in 1993, at President Clinton's inauguration. She had me at "Good Morning", the last line of the poem that encouraged us to greet each day with tolerance, love and faith.

I immediately starting reading any and everything she wrote. Raped as a young child she made the decision not to talk after the man she accused was found murdered. She believed her words killed him. She didn't talk for five full years. Not a word. When a teacher finally broke through the barrier and encouraged her to communicate again, her words flowed with force and the compassion of someone who quietly observed the world around her for so many silent days.

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently." 

Life itself is all about having the courage to make it through any day. In past months, I remembered that quote on each day that it took everything I had to put one foot in front of the other. It kept me moving. Dr. Angelou was a freedom fighter who worked along side of Malcolm X and well knew the courage needed to change the world one day at a time. It takes courage to have conviction. Courage to have faith. Courage to take the first step when you can't see past the next one.

"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."

It is this quote that has defined my life. It hangs over my desk at the office, and stays on the screen of my laptop at home. Her words stack like a monument that points me in the right direction each and every time I feel a little lost. I WILL NOT ALLOW the actions of someone else to make me anything less than I am. Because of her words, in someone else's loss, I gained myself. I will be forever grateful, Ms Angelou, for that lesson. I will remember it always and pass it forward on every given opportunity.

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."

Oh baby! How I strive to accomplish that mission! It is all the essentials of a worth-full existence. A life well-lived! Stamp it on my tombstone and let it be my legacy! Maya Angelou inspired me on so many levels throughout the years that I felt her loss deeply last week. For so many years, I have surrounded myself daily with her visions. It was so wonderful to hear and see her words celebrated in the media and social masses last week. Even I, a long time admire, found things I hadn't seen before. I may even have a new favorite, one the celebrates the imperfection in all of us.

"Every day I try to do better. See better. Say better. Talk better. Be better. I do my best. And I blow it 10 times out of 12. I ask forgiveness of anyone whose feelings I may have hurt. I ask forgiveness of God. I forgive myself. And then I start again."

And that is really all any of us can do. Forgive ourselves, start again and greet each day as a "do-over". Damn. She has me again;

"Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope

Good morning"

Photo by Own Network


  1. Thank you Asta! She was an amazing woman!

  2. Wonderful stuff here, Jo Ann. I love how personal you made your encounters with/responses to this great woman. Well done.

  3. Thank you Joe! Encouraging words from another writer is always welcome!