Last week 86-year-old Maya Angelou died. She leaves behind such a legacy of poetry and other writings and a lifetime of speaking out—against racism, sexism, rape, identity and so much more. She was raped at the age of 8 by her mother's boyfriend. She grew up in the Jim Crow South. Her writings are raw and real. But her life story was positive.
And so another brave voice has been stilled. But the wonderful things about writers and poets is that their voices really aren't stilled. We still have their words.
Are you thinking yet about what your legacy will be? There are so many ways to leave a legacy. You don't have to be a writer or a poet. You don't have to be an artist whose paintings live on. Perhaps you have children or grandchildren whose lives you have helped shape and continue to deeply influence. Maybe you've left a mark on a workplace. Or you have made such a difference in the lives of friends and neighbors that they pass that on to others in what we call the ripple effect.
You and I don't do good things simply because we want to be remembered or want to leave a legacy when we're gone. But it still is worth thinking about: Do you want to be a positive influence? Or a negative one? Now is the time to give that serious thought.
I've mentioned before a book by Dawna Markova that made a deep impression on me: I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion. Markova talks about how we tell our life experiences and stories: as "rut stories" or "river stories." You can imagine a rut story—it's negative, smacks of poor me, and depicts your life as one stuck in a rut. A river story, on the other hand, is positive and has forward movement like a river; even when negative things happen to you, you don't get stuck there. You don't let those things crowd out the blessings and the positives of life. Maya Angelou definitely told river stories—even when she was speaking out. Thank you for all you gave us, Maya!