Intelligence Before Courage

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Maya Angelou speak to a sold out crowd at The Paramount Theater in Seattle. At 82 years of age, the Dr. is as wild and inspiring as ever. She shared short snippets of some of her life experiences, mostly funny anecdotes peppered with her unparalleled storytelling style. Graceful, charming, and honest, Dr. Angelou is living proof of the immense impact that one person can have on the world.

I remember being a young teenage girl, coming in to my own, gangly and unsure of my prospects in life. My friend Kerri gave me a handwritten copy of Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman“. These were in the times before you could send links via email to your friends. Those were hard times. I remember reading it over and over, keeping it folded and tucked neatly in to my own poetry journal, rank with teenage angst and unimportant scribblings about boys who broke my heart by simply looking in my direction. Like every teenage girl at some point in their lives, I was lost and scared at what the world had to offer me as I entered womanhood. Would I have the strength to meander through a world that seemed completely ruled by men and the media telling me what I should look and act like? I was never a girly girl. I grew up in a home with Rock and Roll parents. I was never taught how to properly apply make-up, nor was I pushed to wear fluffy pink dresses on Easter. While all of the girls in my second grade photo rocked pigtails and braids, I rocked feathered hair, courtesy of my mother.

“Phenomenal Woman” changed my life, in a way. At the very least it was comforting and veered me in the right direction…

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Reading that poem made me feel like I could do anything — be whomever I wanted. Dr. Angelou made a difference in my life, without her knowing my name or the impact that she was having. She leads by example and inspired me to do the same.

If every person in the world led by example, answered the call of duty when it was not asked of them, the world would obviously be a better place. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives, the eco-system of the worlds that we have created for ourselves, that we forget to take off the blinders. The world is a vast place. It is a beautiful place. It is not perfect, but we all have a duty to try to make it that way. Sometimes the solutions are easy. Smile at someone who is walking by you, hold the door open for the person behind you, show gratitude. Say “Thank You.” Sometimes there are opportunities to do more. There is always someone less fortunate than you. There is always a person in need of help. It is our job to keep our ears and eyes open and offer it when we can.

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    • Jennifer
    • March 29th, 2011

    She’s awesome and you’re awesome!

    Choose Happiness & Success!
    Jennifer

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