Maya Angelou died on my birthday this year. From the moment I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1970 I had hope. Maya gave me hope that life could be better, that somehow I could get out there and create a life beyond fear and terror, beyond abuse, beyond not knowing who I was or where my next meal would come from. Maya showed me that the human spirit could rise above any chains, any oppression and find a way to fly, to sing. From despair and frailty could bloom beauty and grace.
I dedicated my life to that. To not only finding the way but to following it. I learned, I taught myself how to walk in beauty rather than walk in fear. And the way continues to unfold. I continue to learn, to open, to find deeper and more meaningful ways to live, to be.
Words have power. Maya’s words had power when I read them. I read all the time and I listen. If you tell me something I will believe you are speaking from your truth, good or bad, weak or powerful: your words tell me of who you are and of what you believe to be true. I listen. I pay attention. Sometimes that hurts. Sometimes it opens a way of being, of walking that I hadn’t considered before.
I love words, it’s why I write. It’s why I read. It’s why I pay attention to the words of others. Words connect us as human beings, they teach us one another’s truth. Words are amazing.
A few years ago I closed one Facebook account, which was mostly a daily news kind of place to open another one. I wanted this place to be one where I could share my truth and provide an opportunity for others to join me in doing the same. And it has happened. I have a community of people who, sure, share bits and pieces of our daily lives with one another, but mostly we share about what matters to us. We share wisdom and advice, we support one another, encourage one another, send healing to each other, pray for each other and it truly has become a marvelous place of grace and love. Filled with words – of wisdom, of power, of change and growth.
And so we come to this week – to the purpose of these words today. Our van broke down, we are in southern France, far from home, even far from the friends we have here in France and the bill for repairs along with the cost of staying put in a motel for days while the van waits seemed overwhelming. We are traveling and yes it’s a grand adventure but we watch our pennies. We sleep in our van, often on the side of the road, most often actually. We fix our own meals and cut corners everywhere in order to make this adventure possible. How could we take care of this and carry on? I shared the situation on Facebook, because it’s what we do, my tribe and I. We say here’s a problem that feels too huge for me to solve. And then we receive. We receive encouragement, advice, support, questions and answers. I wasn’t even really looking for a solution, I just knew this was the place I can be me and be received. And that is a gift beyond measure, one I offer, one I cultivate.
And then a friend, and keep in mind that 95% of the people on my FB page are people, friends, I have never met “in real life” as they say. Which is so foolish because what happens in my FB community is real life, sometimes it’s as real as it can possibly get. But I digress. A friend commented I should create a way for her, for others if they chose, to help us out financially with this situation. And then a couple more chimed in. So, remember that whole “I listen” thing? Boy did I have to stop and think about that. Do I really? Was I going to pay attention and allow myself to create a tangible way to receive? I wasn’t asking. I wasn’t even being asked to ask! I was being asked to receive.
I created a post on one of my blogs – this one – that doesn’t have very many followers because…well, just because. That felt like a safe place to put a link for my friend and any other friends to “donate” to this mess we were in. I had no expectations. I had fear….fear of being vulnerable….and I moved passed it and followed my friends’ advice, created the post and went to bed, and slept.
And in the following 36 hours an amazing thing happened. Thirty people took advantage of that “donate” button and deposited money to help us pay the bill on the van. And my heart broke open. Oh, not in that “I can’t carry on”, or “life is too huge for me” way that I have known before. That each of us has known and will know again because life does that, it sends us situations beyond what we can handle at times. My heart broke open in a “I truly do belong” way.
I’ve always been that kid on the outside looking in. The one with the mismatched clothes and worn-out shoes. The one worrying about will there be money to buy toothpaste this month. The one wondering why she is here. I grew up. Sure. I grew past that place of poverty, of fear, of being on the outside. And yet….
I have spent the past day and a half receiving and it has broken me open to love in a way I never knew before. Today the universe feels like a place that truly welcomes me and I have my friends to thank for that. This openness is a gift beyond measure and it has changed me and will continue to change me. I just know that.
We are still waiting. Waiting for the van to be fixed. Waiting for the final bill. Waiting in a small hotel room, the smallest and least expensive available because that’s who we are. But we are not waiting alone. We are surrounded by people who care and who have given us a means to see light at the end of this tunnel. I will never forget.
tunnel through mountain in southern France