Marguerite Ann Johnson’s earliest memory is from age three.
The year was 1931 and she was walking with her mom and five-year-old brother to a train station. When they arrived, her mother bent down, told them to behave and handed the boy tickets. She then tied wristbands on them in case they got lost. The note read: “Marguerite and Bailey Johnson Jr. From Long Beach, California en route to Stamps, Arkansas.”
The children’s mother was pursuing a career as a dancer in California and felt she could no longer take care of her children. So she shipped them to be raised by their grandmother.
The trip to Stamps, Arkansas was difficult. Arriving safely was just the first hurdle of a long, lonely, painful journey. Four years later, Marguerite was molested by a family friend. She shared what happened with her brother who told their uncle. Two days later the abuser was dead.
When Marguerite learned what happened, she blamed herself. With the innocence of a child, she believed her words had the power to kill. She committed that day to never speak again.
She kept that promise for 5 years. During this time she found her voice in ways speaking seldom permits. She loved reading and journaled about the discoveries she made within books.
At age 12, she was challenged in class by a teacher and thus, Marguerite read poetry out loud.
Fueled by her love of knowledge, nature, poetry and life, Marguerite continued sharing her voice. She became an actress, civil rights activist, poet and writer. The little girl who spent years with no voice in a small, racially divided town, became a woman whose voice has been heard all over the world. She’s received countless awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
Marguerite credited her skill to articulate her sorrows and joys as an adult to the challenges she overcame as a child. Those challenges strengthened her character, softened her heart, opened her eyes and formed her into the woman she became: Maya Angelou.
(I learned the details of Maya’s life, and other remarkable stories of overcomers, in my recent Live Inspired Podcast interview with Michaela Haas, expert on Post Traumatic Growth. Realize your possibility to transform your challenges and a clear path to do it by tuning in here.)
My Friend, not many of us endured the horrific adversity that Maya Angelou faced as a child. However, we have all endured our own challenges and there is no doubt we will face more. When the next challenge arises, remember this: “you may not control all of the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
This is your day to let your voice be heard.
This is your day. Live inspired.