“The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.” These beautiful words were spoken by the beautiful, Maya Angelou. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and listen to this prolific poet, philosopher, singer, author, civil rights activist.
I sat in a huge ballroom with thousands of other people. We were in awe of her presence. All around me I heard sniffles from those who were weeping. I heard words confirmation from those she was intimately connecting with. She’s a legend. She’s one of us. I know that’s a contrast, but as I sat there I felt both.
I felt ashamed that I hadn’t read her memoir; I Know why the Caged Bird Sings. If I’d read it, I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that she was raped at a very young age by her mother’s boyfriend. She told her brother the man’s name and soon after that the man was mysteriously killed. Maya stopped talking at that point – never said another word for five years. She thought her words killed that man, therefore she would stop speaking. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this part of her story. What if she was written off by the adults in her life? A (dirt) poor black girl with no parents who is now a mute = hopeless? What if our world was deprived of the monumental contributions of Maya Angelou? Her poetry. Her songs. Her writing.
I sat in that auditorium, taking it all in. Listening to every word from the Master. Dr. Angelou’s story confirmed my long-time belief in the importance of resilience. I’ve read a great deal about the concept of resilience. It’s not a fixed trait. It can be learned, which means it can be taught.. If we teach our kids to “use their energy productively to emerge from adversity stronger than ever” (Wikipedia) – then I truly believe the world will be alright. And, who knows….maybe there are future Maya Angelou’s sitting in our classrooms right now who will soon be ready to contribute to the world in unimaginable ways! Let’s just lean into the horizon a bit and we’ll see the potential that’s all around us.