These quotes in this post are taken from the book Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou which is a collection of excerpts from her writings. Her words have deeply inspired, challenged and comforted me. I hope they will do the same for you as well. Please note that I have added my reflections on some of her writings in this post. I recommend reading her quotes (in bold) once or twice before reading my reflections. I would hate for my words to somehow influence you before you’ve had a moment to reflect on her words yourself. I hope you enjoy the words of one truly beautiful human being (And I don’t mean me but thanks)…may a part of them stay with you forever.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel (41).
Many of us have said hurtful and false things which we are not proud of. We have often done things that we regret. Many of us hope that we will not be defined by the day we said or did something that was out of character for us (or if the thing we did was in our character we hope we will be forgiven). We must employ the use of forgiveness and love toward others who say and do hurtful things toward us. There is a chance that this is not who they really are. Even if they believe that this is the person they are: hurtful, angry, unkind, lazy…this may not be true. If we are to be able to love and care for others, we must forgive and look past the times they lived out their false self. If we wish people to forgive us when we act in ways that are not true to who we are, then we must also be willing to forgive others….over and over again.
For a person who grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in the segregated South, with so many doors closed to me without explanation, libraries and books said, “Here I am, read me.” Take time to read (47).
The libraries in Abilene have been my oasis on evenings when I don’t have a clear plan for what I’m going to do when I get home. There are shelves and shelves full of books that seem to beckon me. I want to explore every cover, every page. Sometimes I find myself wandering around the library looking for some book that I do not yet know that I need. This mysterious book sits in the walls of shelving. It whispers to me though I can’t hear it. Only serendipity will help me find it…the lonely book waiting to be discovered.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you (51).
I would like to add to that. I think the greater agony is to bear untold pain alone inside of yourself. I’ve been there. I still find myself there sometimes and I ask myself why I choose to bear such a pain alone? You start to lose a sense of yourself when you bear such a pain inside for too long. I think the pain will always be a part of the story that we carry, at least in this life. Don’t get me wrong, there is often redemption and joy in the story as well. Whatever your story is, it is worth being told. Even if your story isn’t really that grand or glamorous, it is still worth being told. That’s what stories are for aren’t they?
I learned that I could be a giver by simply bringing a smile to another person (63).
Maya Angelou stumbled upon something truly beautiful here. We all have something to give, even if that gift is as simple as a smile. One can never say they have nothing to offer the world. Show me someone who carries a caring smile with them wherever they go and I will show you a person who gives rich gifts to the world and who never finds their self without.
What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain (79).
I think the old saying if you have nothing good to say then you shouldn’t speak holds true here. It takes work to complain. When I complain I find myself expending energy to solve nothing. Complaining always leaves me more tired and frustrated than I was before. I think sometimes I forget the purpose of my words.
It is important that we learn humility, which says there was someone else before me who paid for me. My responsibility is to prepare myself so that I can pay for someone else who is yet to come (85).
My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart (87).
I love a Hebrew National hot dog with an ice-cold Corona-no lime. If the phone rings, I won’t answer until I’m done (92).
We should not be slaves to this overly busy world. Just because everyone else is ripping and running like a madman doesn’t mean we have to participate. Will it really kill us to sit down for 15 minutes like Ms. Angelou to eat a hot dog and sip a beer (or lemonade…take your pick). If the answer is yes then maybe it’s time to take a long hard look at why we do what we do. Sometimes we need to just relax and enjoy a hot dog and beer. The phone (and the busy world it represents) can wait.
Since life is our most precious gift.
And since it is given to us to live but once,
Let us so live that we will not regret
Years of uselessness and inertia (96).
We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty(97).
I tend to be a bit of a romantic. I like to look at the butterfly and imagine this wondrous, quick and glamorous transformation that she must have gone through. The truth is that there are very few things, that are beautiful, that haven’t gone through an intense and sometimes tediously boring process. Not in real life at least, Hollywood does a good job of skipping past the parts that aren’t so glamorous to bring us an overly hyped, super cool, and interesting story. In reality, this is a silly notion.
It was hard enough to discover that I was a child of God, but to understand that the bigot and the murderer were also children of God was an even more difficult journey (57).
In the silence, we listen to ourselves. Then we ask questions of ourselves. We describe ourselves to ourselves, and in the quietude, we may even hear the voice of God (56).
A person’s speech is a mirror to her or his soul (74).
I had long known that there were worlds of differences between males and men, as there were between females and women. Genitalia indicated sex, but work, discipline, courage, and love were needed for the creation of men and women (101).