“We have the power to be rainbows.” Maya Angelou

This morning I read an interesting Bloomberg article entitled “Twelve Rules for Life” by Megan McArdle. (https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-01-30/megan-mcardle-s-12-rules-for-life). I was surprised to see it because these sorts of articles and lists usually appear in January as folks are composing their New Years Resolutions, even if they don’t get past number one, and even if that one exists only momentarily in their minds. Her article is well written and though I don’t agree with all of her “rules,” it brought to mind certain Lessons for Life I read years ago written by a very different sort of author. I fell in love with this author’s life’s lessons and shared them as frontice pieces for class notebooks of many middle school students over the years.

The writer I am talking about is Marguerite Annie Johnson, born in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4th, 1928. In 1970. Her book, I know Why The Caged Bird Sings came out, followed by All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes in 1986 and My Painted House, and in 1994, My Friends Chicken and Me. This amazing poet, writer, stateswoman, and teacher also published several volumes of verse, including And Still I Rise, one of her most popular poetry books of all time. Former President Bill Clinton requested that she compose a poem to read at his inauguration 1993. Marguerite, later known as Dr. Maya Angelou, read her poem On the Pulse of the Morning which was broadcast live around the world. It was only the second time a poet had been asked to read at a Presidential inauguration! If you haven’t heard it, please write the title down and search it out on Youtube. 

Dr. Angelou received over thirty honorary degrees, became active in the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, taught and lived in Africa for awhile, and pressed on for people to find courage in life. She speaks of courage quite a bit–courage to stand up, stand out, speak up, and change things. After all she’d been through in her life, after all the years she could not speak, she later found a way to reach people, to teach people. She is one of my heroes!

In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Professor Angelou is gone now, but her messages are as resonant as ever. I never tire of reading her incredible wisdom-packed words.

SOME OF MAYA ANGELOU’S LESSONS FOR LIFE

1. “Assign yourself; don’t wait for others to tell you what you should do.”

2. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

3. “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.”

4. “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”

5. “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.”

6. “All great achievements require time.”

7. “A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”

8. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

9. “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to give something back.”

10. “If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”

11. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself: to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

12. “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

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