Dear Readers, it has been a hiatus of many months since I posted a blog of my own on this site. After spending a lot of time soul searching and listening to words of encouragement from my wife and close friends, I have decided to return to my blogging roots and resurrect the series of blogs I called “My Inspiration.”
Today’s post focuses on the inspirational words of Maya Angelou who was one of America’s most influential people and continues to move us to search our hearts with her immortal words.
“The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.”
The element of Maya Angelou’s writings that always strikes me is her innate humility. In the first line, “it seems to me” she makes it clear that all she wants to do is share personal thoughts instead of preaching a truth that we must accept. Immediately, my mind opens wide to what follows and I read on in anticipation. This gives me pause. Do I invite people to share in my thinking or am I sounding more like the booming gong and clanging cymbal in St. Paul’s epistle about love?
In her next breath, Ms Angelou encourages us to prepare ourselves to be “a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” Many of us, I think, associate preparedness for a test or for success that benefits us in some way. How often are we asked to prepare ourselves in order to serve others? She makes it very clear that we should be a source of brightness and joy in the life of another person who is in the shadow of some personal trouble.
As I turn that idea over in my mind, I wonder how one prepares for that kind of service. Cultivating a point of view that looks outward beyond my own wants and needs towards others would be a good start. I need to develop genuine empathy so that I can recognize another’s need. As well, I need to shed any negativity about life that I’ve accumulated along my own journey, and be a hopeful person who looks for the goodness in others.
This kind of personal growth is no small task, in my view! Perhaps for some, being a beacon of light for others is as simple as rolling out of bed in the morning. Regardless, I agree with Maya Angelou that every human being should strive to serve with no expectation of reward from the world around us. From my own experience, the times when I have helped someone to smile, the warm inner glow I felt was reward enough.
In the last few lines, Angelou addresses the things that divide humans: race, gender, religion, and culture among other things. For her, our shared humanity is paramount. There is nothing more important than reaching out to all persons we contact, not just the ones who share the same identifiers with ourselves.
I remember reading an article that discussed the traits that are shared in common by all humans. As I read about our shared physicality, physical needs, psychological needs which drive us, and our common spiritual yearnings, I was struck by the triviality of the things that we allow to divide us. The resulting intolerance and fear of our noticeable differences precipitate conflict and warfare among us.
I believe that Maya Angelou was a visionary. She saw and experienced great ugliness in her life yet chose to live a better way. This realization on my part leads me to better appreciate our freedom to choose. We can decide for ourselves to serve others or be selfish. Do we choose to dwell on the ugliness in this world or to live joyfully in gratitude for the beauty in our world and within every human being?
Thank you, Maya Angelou. I’d also like to thank my good friend, Jill Dennison, who blogs each week at Filosofa’s Word about people who have chosen to follow the path made clear in this quote and reach out with kindness to strangers in need who are in their midst. Thanks, Jill, for these uplifting examples of how ordinary folks can work miracles in the lives of others!