Astonish a Mean World


“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

These words by the ever glorious Maya Angelou speak to me this morning.

As a child, Marguerite Ann Johnson endured both abuse and trauma at the hands of those meant to protect her. At the age of 8, she stopped speaking to anyone, believing that her voice had caused a man’s death after she testified against him in court and he was found guilty of rape. He was later murdered. It took years before Angelou learned to establish her voice through memoir and poetry, a voice which now resounds with significance in contemporary literature.

Her words are especially striking this week in the aftermath of Charlottesville, and now the attack in Barcelona. Her speech continues: “Continue to let your eloquence elevate people to heights they can only imagine. Continue to remind the people that each is as good as the other and that no one is beneath you or above you. Continue to…look with favor upon the lost and the least and the lonely. Continue to put the mantle of your protection around the bodies of the young and the defenseless. Continue to take the hand of the despised and the diseased and walk proudly in the high street. Some might see you and be encouraged to do likewise. Continue to plant a kiss of concern on the cheek of the sick and the aged and the infirmed and count that action as natural and to be expected. Continue to let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge that you build to overcome evil and unwelcomed good…Continue today to dare to love deeply and to risk everything for the good thing.”

This is my wish for everyone affected by the events of this week, that we may continue to astonish a mean world with kindness and strive for all people to be able to live and thrive with human dignity. Literature and poetry are especially powerful at times like these. Literature builds empathy, helps us process the emotions we ourselves can’t quite describe on our own. Poets like Maya remind me to CONTINUE — to astonish a mean world with love, with kindness, with mercy, with compassion, with art, with beauty, with forgiveness, with an unquenchable passion for justice.

Have any writers been on your heart?


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