The odd thing about the often long and lonely path of life, Amber, is that when you get to the end of it and look back, you’ll find that it was neither of these.
Since the very first time I read “Phenomenal Woman,” I’ve adored Maya Angelou. I must have been about 12 when I discovered her and went on to read as much of her writing as I could. She is such a simple, honest and wise woman.
Recently, she appeared on Oprah to celebrate her 70th birthday and had these life lessons to share:
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
“I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.”
“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.”
“I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.”
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.”
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.”
“I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.”
“I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back.”
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Thank you @wylielisa for reminding me of this favorite quote. And Happy Anniversary!
Today, a reporter asked me: what message would you have for folks reading this article? Without any context, that is a hard question to answer- you see, he isn’t supposed to tell me what the article is about.
Hmm, okay, what is my message? If I could say ONLY one thing to anyone, what would it be? I thought for several seconds and then blurted: Give freely of your time, talent and treasure to others in order to help them grow. Yes. That is it. That is what I have been focused on and striving for for the better part of the past few years. I am not always successful. I have many, many flaws that get in my way, but that is the one mantra that I cling to- that I try to emulate in all thoughts and actions.
I am a work in progress, as are we all, but that is my message today, right now, in this moment.
200 and 54- the number of days Nana and Papa have been gone. Still doesn’t seem real. I wonder it it ever will.
by Kent Nerburn
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?’” she asked.
I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing.” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a Hospice.”
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued in a soft voice. “The doctor says I don’t have very
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
“What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired… Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers,” I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound
of the closing of a life. I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.