“But still like dust, I’ll rise” ~ Maya Angelou.
What a legacy! What imagery; such vivid use of metaphor. Lines that sing, phrases that sway, Maya Angelou’s words have inspired countless women, girls, men, human beings all over the world for over fifty years. And they will continue to live on in books, on computer screens, memorized and recited in innumerable performances globally.
But how do we rise? Facebook is an amazing place to visit. You can be enlightened, entertained, amused, and distracted as you scroll up and down the pages. Or you can be saddened by the plight of a sick child; horrified by a brutal video; reminded of the ignorance and cruelty of mankind. But the other day I was struck at how quick we are to visit judgment on others, sure we know their motivations and swift in our use of ugly words to condemn. It is amazing that we think we know people when in truth we see only the surface.
I know many will disagree with me, but I have long had a problem with the concept of original sin; that man was born with evil in his heart, an innate wickedness that is in us all. When I watch little kids at play, struggling to make sense of this crazy world, I feel as if the opposite is true. Why could it not be that we are all born with good in our heart? When we study the lives of cruel and abusive people, we learn that they were abused as children. Often the ugly, vicious acts of others arise from fears and insecurities that are hidden deep within. Sometimes we offend others by careless words or deeds that were caused by thoughtlessness, not deliberate callousness. Even when the intention was good, the action may have been poorly executed. But there are those who will ascribe evil intent to oversight, taking offense where none was intended.
When we rise at the expense of others, when we climb on the backs of those we would step upon, we actually sink down. When we take cheap shots, laughing at the misfortune of others, gossiping and taking pleasure at the struggles of our fellow human beings, we are demonstrating our own weaknesses and scars. In the hand that points the finger there are three more aiming straight back at us.
This week there have been so many of Maya’s verses appearing on the internet, one is spoiled for choice. But one line that resonated with me was this one: “Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” The poet (as I have written previously) is very economical with words. They choose them for effect, each one carefully selected for impact. The rest of us throw words with abandon, careless of what damage they may do. But her advice, to look for ways to take the burden off someone else’s suffering rather than add to it, makes you stop and think. It should definitely make you stop and delete words that, once sent out into the interweb, go on forever and ever.
As children we were taught that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” but the joke is that we said it as reflex. Perhaps we had gone crying to our mother and she had said it to try to make us feel better, to distract us! Many of us carry scars of words that were said to us as children. It may have been a thoughtless friend. It could have been a person in authority who had enough power to make us believe that we were no good at math; that we were ugly; that we were too weak or whatever else may have been spoken in a moment of thoughtlessness. Those words may still come back to haunt us at times of stress or distress. So powerful. And yet we were able to rise, to transcend and overcome them.
There are people of inspiration all around us. Iyanla Vanzant is another phenomenal woman. In the introduction to her show she speaks of the tragedies in her life that she has had to overcome and she reminds us “I did my work”. We often see the success of others and have no idea what it has taken for them to get to where they are. We think it was simple, that they were blessed, that somehow they know some shortcut that we don’t know. The truth is that they have faced struggles and failures, falling down over and over again. It is the persistence, the perseverance, the willingness to learn from failure that brings the success. Despite tragedy and loss, still we can rise.
This morning as we rise and shine and give God the glory, let us resolve to be the rainbow and not the rain. Let us try to be more forgiving of the acts of others, and hope they will forgive us when we mess up. Let us be careful that as we rise up like dust, we don’t kick that dust in someone else’s face. Let us be a little more gracious both in giving and receiving. Let us be willing to forgive and to ask forgiveness of others.
“Conquer the angry one by not getting angry; conquer the wicked by goodness; conquer the stingy by generosity, and the liar by speaking the truth.”~ Guatama Buddha
Have a wonderful weekend Family! Celebrate the life of Maya Angelou by sharing a poem, a positive, uplifting line that raises awareness, raises consciousness, and helps us all to rise.