Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Maya Angelou Is Special To Me



Dr. Maya Angelou died yesterday. 

I had heard of Dr. Angelou when I was younger but I never paid her or her work much attention – I was too busy going through my teenage angst years with enough physical insecurity and loneliness to depress a nation. To me, she was always the woman “they” talked about. The woman others said was really great but I never knew firsthand what made her so. It was last year that I finally felt pulled to study this phenomenal woman

I was watching a Super Soul Sunday video on the OWN channel and Oprah Winfrey was talking with Dr. Angelou. (Oprah is well-known for counting Dr. Angelou as one of her greatest female inspirations.) As I was watching this video, looking at this older woman sitting in a chair across from Oprah in her long, sparkly, black dress with silvery-gray hair, I was mesmerized. 

She radiated LOVE. 

That is the only way I can think to describe it. When replying any question Oprah asked, she spoke slowly and assuredly with an evident desire to teach and give from herself, with love, to those listening. Her smile was child-like and beautiful, full of awe and appreciation. 

I was transfixed. 

I listened intently to everything she said. Every word that came out of her mouth sounded rich and meaningful. When she spoke about God, she mentioned her amazement as to how it was possible that God loved…her. At one point she was recounting a story from her past and she started repeating the words she had been instructed by her then mentor, Frederick Wilkerson,  to say: “God loves me. God loves me. God…loves…ME.” The truth of the words moved her so deeply and almost brought her to tears. I was almost in tears watching her. She had a quality that I did not fully understand at the time. 

Gratitude. 

After watching that video, I did further research into her life/work and realized why she was the woman so many people talked about. I realized why she was the woman so many people were inspired by. I realized why Oprah considered her one of her greatest female inspirations. I realized why I had “stumbled” upon her video. She was a woman of gratitude. Yes, she was a well-known author, poet, actress, teacher, and civil rights activist whose works are highly appreciated. But that is not what makes Dr. Angelou so special to me. What makes her so special is that for all that her life was made of (her great accomplishments and her great pain – she was raped at age 7 by a close male figure, she was almost beaten to death and held captive for days by one of her boyfriends in her later years, and more), she was grateful. 

She was grateful for her mother’s love and lessons even though her mother wasn’t perfect (FYI, no one is), she was grateful for the opportunities she had to serve others greatly, she was grateful for the sweet experiences she had enjoyed in life that brought her happiness, and she was grateful for the painful experiences in life that brought her life lessons. 

She was a woman of gratitude and that is why she enjoyed a rich life. She was a woman of gratitude and that is why she was capable of empathizing with others. She was a woman of gratitude and that is why she was able to love others. She was a woman of gratitude and that is why she had the impact she did on the lives of so many. She was a woman of gratitude and that is why she was a phenomenal woman.  

She was a woman of gratitude and that is what I am fighting to be.  

If you believe Dr. Angelou’s life mattered, don’t just write “R.I.P Maya Angelou” on Facebook/Twitter. Don’t just say how sad this is and move through your life the same unloving and unfulfilling way you’ve been operating. Don’t just forget the lives of the people God has used to touch you. Acknowledge the lessons in their lives you are meant to learn (including the cautionary tales). Notice the character habits that made their lives as beautiful as they were and start embodying those habits in your life.

When someone physically dies, don’t let them become “dead” to you. Carry the best parts of their spirit with you through your life. That is how you make sure that the beauty of a soul lives on with you. 

Thank you Dr. Maya Angelou for teaching me that gratitude is a key ingredient to living a rich and enjoyable life. 

May your soul forever rest in peace in the bosom of the Lord.


"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer." 
- Maya Angelou

p.s. I am giving away one copy of Dr. Angelou's book, "Mom & Me & Mom". It is a beautiful memoir about the relationship between Maya and her mother, centered around love, forgiveness, and of course, gratitude. This book was a blessing to me and I hope it serves as a blessing to you. If you would like to have this book, just let me know in the comments section below why you want the book. I will announce the winner next Thursday on Twitter

*You must reside in the U.S. to participate in this giveaway.*

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9 comments:

  1. She was a great woman indeed and her story is just - phenomenal.. I know that her legacy will surely live on.
    I wish I could enter the competition to win the book but I live in Nigeria!

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    1. I wish you could enter it too, Ayo! I will have to start running giveaways down the line that can apply to Naija:)

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  2. "Notice the character habits that made their lives as beautiful as they were and start embodying those habits in your life." - LOVE this. Great read and definitely has reminded me to get on the road to gratitude, sometimes we lose sight of the little things in life that make it so magical.

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    1. Thanks, Sez! We can always use a reminder. The one thing I will say is that I've started training my mind to see all things as grand/magical and nothing as "little". When we think or say something is little, we subconsciously consider it less valuable and appreciate it less. It's definitely a process:)

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  3. I've watched that same video that you talk about earlier in the post. You're so spot on describing her. She radiates joy and gratitude, despite an upbringing that could have easily broken her spirit. I love her quote "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." She never let her self be reduced.

    This post was such a wonderful tribute to her, Ada. I especially want to remember this part in my day to day---"When someone physically dies, don’t let them become “dead” to you. Carry the best parts of their spirit with you through your life. That is how you make sure that the beauty of a soul lives on with you. "

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    1. Thanks, Allie! Like you said, she never allowed herself to be reduced by anything that happened in her life and that is beyond admirable to me. She never threw in the towel on life and she continued to serve the souls of others with her words - she definitely served mine:)

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  4. Wow I'm truly inspired by Maya Angelou , just from what you posted about her. I know who she is, but not too familiar with her background. This woman is incredible because in the midst of her greatest trials and tribulations, she never gave up. Life must have been extremely difficult her at times because of all the circumstances she was put in. But above all, she refused waste herlife complaining and she possessed a grateful heart. I would love the opportunity to learn more about Maya Angelou and be challenged to strive for a life of gratitude and appreciation. She is truly a woman who exemplifies virtue.

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  5. I think this book would be an amazing start to my cleanse. I am eliminating television shows and getting back to the basics: reading. That includes me getting back into reading my Bible, a book called the Purpose Driven Life, and Pink Lips & Empty Hearts. I know that Maya didn't have the easiest of lives but I would like to learn more about Maya through writings. I like to write myself, so her passion and drive to publish so many great books that has touched so many life's is inspiring to me to want to continue my writings.

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  6. Hey, Kevonna! Unfortunately I already closed the giveaway before you left your comment. I still hope you get
    Maya's book because it is a great read.

    And I've also read The Purpose Driven Life - it changed my life! The book screams God's truth.

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