Maya Angelou and gratitude
My mother gave me a subscription to Good Housekeeping about 20 years ago, and she renews it every year for me. (I think she was hoping something might stick. I think she’s still hoping.) They actually have a great website too, but I still enjoy flipping through the paper magazine every month, especially at breakfast when no one is awake enough to have conversations…
There was a beautiful section called “The Gift of Gratitude” in the holiday issue, with a whole bunch of celebrity-types saying what they are grateful for (I know, this feature is pretty much everywhere this time of year), and Maya Angelou’s offering really touched me, so I wanted to share it (click the link to see the full feature):
There was a time when I was in a state of utter despair, immersed in guilt over promises made on which I had not delivered. I went to my vocal coach, Fred Wilkerson, weeping copiously. He asked what was the matter. I responded, “I’m going crazy. I am almost at the brink of suicide.” He offered me a legal-size, lined yellow pad and a pen. He said, “Write down your blessings!” Furious that he didn’t understand my condition, I shouted, “Don’t talk nonsense, I’m telling you I am going crazy.” He said, “Write down that you could hear me say ‘write down’ and think of the millions who cannot hear the cries of their babies, or the sweet words of their beloveds, or the alarm that could help them seek safety. Write down that you can see this yellow pad and think of the millions on this planet who cannot see the smiles of their growing children or the delight in the faces of their beloveds, or the colors of the sunrise and the softness of the twilight. Write down that you know how to write. Write down that you know how to read.” Wilkie, as he was known, gave me that lesson in 1955. Fifty-five years later, I have written 31 books, essays, plays, and lyrics for songs — all on yellow pads. I remain in an attitude of gratitude.
— Maya Angelou performer, poet, and author of Great Food, All Day Long
Something to think about.