Admittedly, what I know about Maya Angelou is very little and mostly from Oprah’s TV show.  I have read a couple of her poems, which have touched me.  But until I picked up this book, I have never spent any quality time with Maya Angelou’s thoughts or words.  The title of this book spoke to me because I have always thought about the books I would gather and hand my daughter as a gift as she transitions from girl to woman.  This book is now one of those books that will be passed down.

This book is a quick one day read of 28 short stories/essays and a few poems about life as an African American woman, pregnancy, rape, being a daughter, coming of age, spirituality and so much more!  I  had some very profound moments while reading this book, and I found quite a few parallels with her thoughts on racism and my thoughts on the discrimination of LGBT individuals.

I spend a great deal of my time volunteering, and I donate money when I can.  I have never spent any time looking up the word “philanthropist”, but thankfully Maya Angelou has.   “The word philanthropy was taken from the two Greek words.  phil–lover of; and anthro–mankind.  So, philanthropists are lovers of humanity.”  She talks about how they show their love through large sums of money and how she would classify herself as “charitable”.  “The charitable say in effect, ‘I seem to have more than I need and you seem to have less than you need.  I would like to share my excess with you.’  Fine, if my excess is tangible, money or goods, and fine if not, for I learned that to be charitable with gestures and words can bring enormous joy and repair injured feelings.”

She finishes her thought by saying, “I may  never be known as a philanthropist, but I certainly am a lover of mankind, and I will give freely of my resources.  I am happy to describe myself as charitable.”

I loved her thoughts on this.

There is a chapter called “Morocco” where she tells a story of her trip to that country.  She was a young naive 25-year-old woman who was not versed in the ways of the Moroccan people.  She tells a humorous tale that reminds us to learn about the customs of the countries we want to visit.  This story actually had me laughing out loud.  I may never look at raisins the same way again!

A lesson in gratitude:

“The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas.  The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising.  Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude.  If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow.  Today I am blessed.”

A thought on strangers and friends:

“I learned that a friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.”

There was another story she told about her life with  her ex husband.  “Within two days of our meeting we knew were in love together and had to be in life together.”  To me, the thought of being in love together instead of in love with each other, was so beautiful and such a great way to express what love truly is.

Then as I was finishing the book, in the last “chapter” called “Keep the Faith” she describes a persons spiritual journey as this…”It is in the search itself that one finds the ecstasy.”  And so it is!

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