Living and learning with Dr. Maya Angelou

Living and learning with Dr. Maya Angelou

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Dr. Maya Angelou’s recent passing caused my heart to break. I was forced to reconcile the bittersweet loss of our living world with heaven’s gain. Dr. Angelou’s presence and storytelling have inspired my journey of womanhood. Among the many posts of tribute, I was moved by a column penned by Dr. Tara Green, professor and director of the African American Studies Program at UNCG. Honest and authentic, it opened my eyes to see the deep impact Dr. Angelou had on all women.

Just a few weeks ago, I experienced yet another ‘Maya Moment’ or life lesson.

Out of a job. So, off to the beach.  

Ocean Isle North Carolina

A view of the sound side in Ocean Isle


At the end of May, I learned that I had been let go from the university that I had proudly served for thirteen years. I was part of the RIF process or reduction in force. The timing was ironic, given that I was fresh out of a leadership role for the department.

It was – and is – all good. I have chosen an attitude of onward. (Spoiler alert. Dr. Angelou provided the inspiration for life lessons for this post; a view from the organizational top will inspire the next).

I humbly admit I still found myself feeling a bit unnerved.

My silver lining in this ‘cloud’ of news was that the following weekend, I would be on my way to the North Carolina coast. It’s an annual trip I’ve been making for close to twenty years with my besties to God’s pool. It’s restorative and has always allowed for reflection and relaxation.

So there we were. A gaggle of chicks indulging in bowls of Edy’s ice cream. As we flipped through the TV channels one night, we landed on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) airing one of the many celebration ceremonies honoring Dr. Angelou. This one was especially moving as attendees broke out into spontaneous song. It was utterly moving and beautiful, leaving a group of six chicks in silence as we scraped our ice cream bowls.

Following the ceremony, Oprah aired her Master Class with Dr. Angelou. One sentiment struck me in a new way, one in which many of you Maya fans have heard before.

Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.

Dr. Maya Angelou

Photo Credit: Oprah Network


Rooted in an African-American spiritual, Dr. Angelou shared what resonates most with her: “When it looked like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”

And then, only as Dr. Angelou can exclaim with her enthusiastic tone of – do you see the brilliance my friend, she adds, “Imagine! I’ve had so many rainbows in my clouds. I had a lot of clouds, but I had so many rainbows.”

Ah, it’s about seeking those rainbows.

Message received, Dr. Angelou, and I remain grateful as heaven celebrates your angelic presence. Thank you for limitless wisdom and a voice that I will carry forward as I journey onward.  


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9 Replies to “Living and learning with Dr. Maya Angelou”

  1. Seeing the positive or counting ones blessings is often overshadowed by those dark heavy clouds. Even in the strongest storm I know God is always there. My nephew Samuel is here with me this week, he lost his mom when he was 2 years old. He is 5 now. He reminds me of rainbows. Of her rainbow. Of her presence. He reminds me every day that I must be more for him. Love him more, laugh with him more, snuggle him more. I think Dr. Maya Angelou understood clouds better than most and I think she and Samuels mom are now seeing some beautiful rainbows!

  2. I’ve been thinking about you Debbie. Thanks for sharing your perspective on a life transition…. It’s inspiring.

  3. Awesome, Deb! I have seen you through many clouds and there has always been a rainbow!!! This time, I’m expecting two rainbows!!!!!

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