"I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me." Terence
These words (among many, many others) were written by a Roman poet/playwright around 170 B.C. I first heard them last Tuesday night as I sat listening to Maya Angelou warble her particular brand of wisdom and love out to the crowd gathered in Seattle. I hope I never forget them.
She repeated this phrase several times during the hour and a half that she sat, regal in a tall chair in front of a clear plexiglass podium on the stage before us. Her message was that we need to honor our uniqueness, the special gifts that we each possess that make us who we are, that enable us to bring something new to the world around us. But in honoring that uniqueness, we also ought not to lose sight of the things that make us all so similar. That in listening to each other's stories we remember to realize how many times during those stories we find ourselves nodding our heads in agreement or understanding, recalling our own experiences.
This amazing 78 year old woman who has lived a life so different from mine gave me the thread to weave throughout the book I'm writing. This African American woman who came from poverty and grew up in the deep South during times of persecution and hatred, who quit school as a teenager to give birth to a child, who was raised by her grandmother and crippled uncle, this woman with whom I have nothing in common on the surface wrapped these words up in a cloak of humanity and compassion and love and handed it to me as sure as if she had stepped off of that stage and walked up the aisle to where I was sitting. I will honor her stories and the stories of the women about whom I am writing. I will remember to hold us all up as examples of people who have struggled with difficult choices and who hope that our choices will help illuminate this rocky path for others.
Turns out we have a little bit in common after all. Thanks!