An Angel of Hope Takes Flight
On the morning of Thursday, May 28, the world said goodbye to literary giant, Dr. Maya Angelou. Her wisdom and her literary works are sure to live on in the hearts of men and women for years to come. Her debut book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, forever changed my life at the young age of eight. As a young publisher of Hope for Women, I was terrified when I asked for a one-on-one interview with the literary guru. In the fall of 2010, Hope for Women had the distinct honor of interviewing the woman whom everyone knew to be phenomenal! The profound words of that interview still speak wisdom, strength and hope years later.
Hope: What does hope mean to you?
MA: Hope is like the air I breathe, I couldn’t live without it. It’s the water that comprises over 65-70 percent of our bodies. We could not live without it. It is possible to exist in a hopeless state. But you can’t live. And there’s a world of difference between those two conditions. It is that which activates the muscles, the eyeballs and the heart. It is that which helps us get out of bed and be caring enough about ourselves to be on time at work, on time with appointments. It allows us to get our hair fixed, and our bodies bathed, and put on attractive clothes to ourselves. It is hope. I couldn’t live without it.
Hope: You compared hope to air. Just like the air is subject to pollution, sometimes our hope is subject to pollution during times of disappointment. How do you protect your hope during those times?
MA: Even with the air we breathe, the pollution, the stench, we still have to breathe it. We have to imagine, we have to hope it’s not going to spoil our lungs forever. I think you have to decide yourself whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. If you say it’s half-empty, then you’re really giving into hopelessness. If you say it’s half-full, same amount, then you say, this is what I’ve got. This glass is half-full. It could be empty, but it’s half-full. I’ve got hope that this is going to satisfy my thirst. There’s an attitude that one has to have. And one must fight to have it. An attitude of hopefulness. And a way to do that is to be thankful for what you’ve got, thankful for how you’ve come this far. And once you see really, and don’t jive yourself, see where you were and see where you are now, then you know you’ve come a mighty long way. And once you can say that, then you can say, well I’ve come this far, then I’m going to be able to make it along further. That’s hopefulness.
Hope: I’ve heard you refer to Coretta Scott King as your “chosen sister.” What does sisterhood mean to you today? And how important is sisterhood to our future generation?
MA: Women have to go have sisters. We’ve always had sisters. As African-Americans, we couldn’t have survived this long without a respect for sisterhood. I think we’ve started losing a very important part of ourselves. About 30 years ago, there was a song that was released which said in effect, “I don’t trust any woman around my man.” That’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard because you trust your children around another woman. Because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to survive. The other woman – the friend, the sister friend, the auntie, the mama, the grandma, the niece – all those people have to look after the children. And not only the children, but our institutions, which means our schools and our churches. Women. And so, I don’t know how you can advise yourself about everything that comes up in your life without a sister friend, without saying, ‘Girl, sit down, I want to talk to you. This happened. How do you read this?’ And know that someone cares for you enough to be honest enough to tell you the truth – not the brutal fact. Anybody who says, ‘I’m brutally truthful’ – that’s stupid. You shouldn’t ever be brutal about anything. Tell the truth. If you really want it heard, you tell it in such a way that it gets into the ears and then into the heart of your listener. But if you tell it in a brutish way, the person closes down, slams shut, and hears nothing. But if you have a sister friend and you have a situation that you haven’t quite read clearly, you can say to her, ‘Sis, listen. This is what happened. How do you read this?’ Now having a sister friend is like having a gentleman friend or having a love. You have to protect it. You don’t take it for granted. About once a month, you send a little note. You have some extra money, send some flowers, ‘Just wanted to make you smile.’ You see some pretty handkerchiefs, a pretty blouse, pick it up. I don’t mean spend a lot of money. I mean, if you’re in the shop and you see something on sale, you think, ‘She’d laugh at that. I need to send that to her.’
Dr. Maya Angelou 1928 ~ 2014
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings