I’ve been at the beach for a total of five days, and I’ve only just now intentionally listened to the sound of the ocean waves crashing ashore.
I’d like to think of myself as a here-and-now, observant kind of person who knows how to simply exist and live in the moment. However, the truth of the matter is that I’m still learning how to truly cherish this life before it’s gone and I don’t have the opportunity to leave behind the traces or marks I wanted to anymore.
Case in point: I bought a famous author’s most popular book on the day of her death.
To put this example in a clearer perspective for you, you should know the ways in which I let this writer only delicately scratch the surface when it came to impacting my life. I had been deeply moved to the point of the heart-leaping-out-off-your-chest kind of inspiration by her renowned quotes countless times, but failed to ever search out their origins. I had been told by multiple people to read her autobiographies and poems because I would “love them” and “love her.” And I had even checked out I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings from the library during my junior year of college only to leave it set on my desk until the due date rolled around. So why I am only just now really diving into the depths of Maya Angelou’s wise heart comes down to the mere fact that I didn’t take the time to listen to what I was hearing throughout the last few years when her influence consistently attempted to tiptoe into my life.
I don’t know what it is about the works and personal stories of writers inspiring other writers to write, but I’m just going to give the inspiration the attention that I believe it deserves.
Read about Maya sometime and I think you’ll understand what I mean. Her words in themselves hold deep impact. From what I gather, trials and the human heart were her expertise. Her story, however, holds the well from which her powerful words sprung.
This beautiful soul—an author, poet, journalist, editor, civil rights activist, dancer, singer, actress, composer, director and more than we’ll know—was mute for five whole years after tragic events occurred in her childhood. Five years of complete silence transpired prior to many years of Maya outpouring her wisdom to us.
During those years, and for many years after, I think Maya listened well. I think she listened well to her surroundings, sure, but more importantly, I think she listened well within. She listened to the thoughts of her heart and the war for her heart; the tormenting lies whispered to her, as well as the combating truths her Creator whispered to her. She listened to what was going on inside her. She listened to what was going on inside her because I think she knew that there might be others out there who needed to know that she felt the depths of pain and heartbreak too—others who might one day need her strong words to help pull them out of their own depths.
I fully believe that it’s our life stories, and with that the treatment we give to ourselves and to others, that truly impact the world we live in. Maya knew this well; “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.” I don’t know about you, but if I could meet and converse with the being that held the heart that cultivated those words and discovered the truth behind them, I’d be forever changed. (I think I already am.)
Simply put: When we’ve listened and we’re able to share our story and what we’ve learned, i think that’s what can impact someone’s llfe– and by extension change the world.
A story is powerful, but it is made up of more than a mere sequence of events. Plots in themselves do not impact readers. There are developing characters we root for, motives to discern, internal conflicts we explore and themes to pick out that give a story its substance—and it’s this substance that we can only obtain when we listen for it.
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” –Maya Angelou