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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Lonely Planet, Happy Woman

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Traveling without a Lonely Planet guidebook is like running through a minefield blindfolded. These are simply the most content rich, honestly written travel guides available. Look what came in the mail today! I am already immersed. Check out Lonely Planet’s images of Costa Rica. Drool.

What is a Soles4Souls Shoe Distribution?

Welcome to “The Best Shoes are Free”

As many of you know by now, I am joining Soles4Souls from July 25th – July 29th on a trip to Costa Rica that promises to be life-changing. During this trip, I will be joining 16 other volunteers to help distribute shoes and clothing to those in need. From the Soles4Souls web site:

The purpose of for this trip is to allow team members to experience firsthand Changing the World One Pair at a Time. Your work will focus on serving the needs of the Costa Ricans by providing individual attention in fitting the locals with clothes and shoes. Our team will be distributing shoes to groups of at risk youth and indigenous groups including at the Village of Hope in La Carpio just outside of San Jose.  At the Village of Hope we will supply shoes for youth and young adults ages 1-25.  We also work with other organizations to distribute shoes at two other similar locations in the San Jose area.

It is amazing to think about, but the sheer impact of fitting a child with brand new shoes is staggering.

Over 300 million children worldwide are without shoes.

Shoes are very often considered a required part of the school uniform in developing countries, and without shoes, many children are unable to attend school.

Many serious health conditions can be absorbed through the feet, even through the toughest soles. As the skin on the bottom of the feet toughens and thickens, large cracks can form, which allows parasitic infections such as hookworm and threadworm to penetrate the skin. In addition, constant cuts and scrapes to the feet and ankles frequently become infected and many of these infections can lead to ulcers and worse.

There is no substitute for the face-to-face, individual time that will be spent between volunteers and recipients. That is why these trips are so important. I will be keeping this blog as a place to first fund-raise for my trip and share wonderful articles, photos, and news from Soles4Souls, then to document my journey via photos, tweets, and blog posts. I ask, if you haven’t yet, to please consider making a donation via my personal fund-raising web site. Any amount, big or small, truly helps. One dollar can put one pair of shoes on a child and literally change his or her life. It is a small gesture, from the donation process to the actual fulfillment of distribution, but its impact is large and loud.

Not convinced? Visit Soles4Souls Facebook page and give them a “like”. Check out their amazing photo galleries and stories of recent trips to Haiti, India, and Peru. The stories are heartwarming and truly inspirational.

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