I Know Why the Free Bird Cries: How to be Remembered

Today free birds all over the world are crying over the loss of an incredible woman.

A little over 86 years ago, a baby girl named Marguerite Ann Johnson was born in St. Louis, Missouri. The world would later know her as Maya Angelou—the poet, author, and world-shaker.

Writing from the very city in which Maya Angelou was born, I can’t help but think about how many lives have been changed by her, and how it all started right here. This woman, who was raped when she was seven, who became everything from a cook to a prostitute to a civil rights activist, who was friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who wrote seven auto-biographies, who won a Grammy for the poem she performed at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, was one of the most accomplished and respected women who’s ever walked the planet. And in the tenth grade, I fell in love with her poem, “Caged Bird” (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178948) and was inspired by the truth that she spoke. It was for this reason that I was incredibly grateful and honored to have a ticket to hear her speak on May 9th of this year.

Unfortunately, a couple weeks prior to her speaking engagement at Pepperdine University, an email was sent out to ticket-holders saying that she was sick and unable to travel–doctor’s orders. Today, just a month later, the world celebrates her life while mourning her passing. So while I never did get to hear Maya Angelou speak in person, I’d like to take this time to share some thoughts on why this “cool person” will be remembered long after her death and how you can be too.

There are some people in this world who desire fame and fortune and others who want to lay low, keep it simple, and be happy. Today, I’m not going to address either of these people. Today, I’m writing to the people who want to make a name for other people, and as a result, perhaps make a name for themselves along the way. It is these people who will truly be remembered.

In an article on CNN.com, Oprah Winfrey said this of Angelou,

“She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her.”

I’ve always thought of Maya Angelou as an artist first, but this is not what she’ll be remembered for. Maya Angelou will be remembered for the truth that she spoke, and the lessons she sharedit just so happens these truths and lessons were wrapped in beautiful poetry.

Maya Angelou was a teacher and a mentor. Her life wasn’t easy, but her struggles gave her wisdom, and she chose to share her wisdom with us.

What have you been given that you can share? To whom much is given, much will be expected. (Luke 12:48) You may not think you’ve been given a lot, but if you’re reading this, you have.

What skill do you have in abundance that you can teach? What youth can you mentor? Which new coworker can you give helpful advice to?

Mentoring means that the struggles you’ve persevered through were not in vain. This weekend at a seminar called, Creating a Dynasty, I learned that the words you speak are seeds—good and bad, and that these seeds grow into trees that bear fruit—good and bad—and that this fruit contains even more seeds—good and bad.

So today, we are free birds with the power to plant seeds that will become huge trees, with the opportunity to share our words with others. Maya Angelou used her words to impact the world. What will you do with yours? If you know why the caged bird sings, what are you going to say to free him?










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