Much has been written in the last week about the astonishing life and legacy of Dr. Maya Angelou.
Years ago, I attended one of her readings at the Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City. I remember sitting transfixed, spellbound by her melodic voice.
I can’t recall the book or topic on which Angelou spoke. Heck, she could have read from The Kansas City Star and I would have been a happy camper.
There are a precious few people in this world who can captivate a crowd the way she could; even fewer who can touch that tiny space of raw vulnerability deep within each soul.
Dr. Angelou was one of those people.
Outside, after her talk in Kansas City on that long-ago autumn night, I touched her coat sleeve as she walked to her waiting car. It was an impulsive action, one I don’t regret, one that set up a lifetime of smiles each time I recall the memory.
Thank you for your peace, Dr. Angelou.
In the spirit of commemorating her life, here are 18 snippets of Dr. Angelou’s timeless and ageless wisdom. Please enjoy.
My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.
My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
Nothing will work unless you do.
Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.
Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
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.
Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
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.
I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere. For a change, start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to do some good.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
In so many ways, segregation shaped me, and education liberated me.
A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
And lastly, these words of Dr. Angelou’s that make me laugh out loud:
I’m a serious aficionada of country music – Reba McEntire, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry. I’ve even written some songs. They haven’t done anything of mine yet. But it’s only a matter of time.
The time may be closer than we think.
Photo courtesy of pippalou