Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

“Alone” starts off with our speaker doing some serious soul-searching. She’s feeling pretty isolated, but she thinks she just might have come up with an answer to her problems: people need community in order to get by. I think this is very important for many minority groups, but is currently especially needed for the LGBT people in the South. As I was discussing with a friend the other day about the HRC’s Project One America Campaign. My friend said that the most important thing that Alabama LGBT needed was a sense of community. We currently don’t have much of a community besides in larger cities. Alabama still has a largely rural population, which often feels alone because they need that sense of community,

In “Alone,” Angelou says that money won’t buy you happiness. Even the very, very rich get lonely. So, don’t try to make more money. Make friends instead. Something I’m attempting do more of. The speaker of the poem fashions herself into something like a prophet, warning the “race of man” that things aren’t about to get any easier anytime soon. The solution is to realize that no one can make it on their own. We need each other.

When poet, memoirist, screenwriter, film director, jazz singer, dancer, professor, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died in May at the age of 86, I reflected on what an icon America had lost. Maya Angelou helped people feel like they were possible of living great, meaningful lives.

She became, for so many, a symbol of resilience — the capacity to persist in the face of hardship and adversity — and beyond that a symbol of boundless creativity. She didn’t just survive the significant trauma of her early life; she made something magnificent of that life. Here are a few quotes a dear friend sent me from Maya Angelou, and I asked him to tell me what those quotes mean to him.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.“– Maya Angelou

This is my friend’s favorite quote from Maya Angelou. As he thought back on his life and the trials he’s gone through, He said he remember people who have been there for him. You may not remember what they said or did to comfort you, reassure you or build you back up, but we will never forget how they made us feel loved, needed and worth their time. For my friend (and for most of us), these people are our real friends, our real family. We love them more than they will ever know.

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.“– Maya Angelou

This is a very wise and powerful statement made by Angelou and one that has been very difficult for my friend and many of us to achieve. We all take a beating by events in our lives, those experiences knock us down, stomp on our hearts and tear at our souls. We can choose to be conquered by those unfortunate life occurrences or we can overcome them, learn from them and then go help others.

Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.“– Maya Angelou

This is so simple and yet we don’t often put it into action. We get so wrapped up in our own problems, our own desires, and our own silly day-to-day meaningless activities that we forget to be there for other people. I’ve found that when I help others or reach out to a friend in need or take time with someone to let them know we care and that they are important, we are able to forget our problems, our pain and our worries. It’s all about the “Golden Rule” a dear friend once told me. Treat others how you’d hope they would treat you. It’s in a small way following the example of Jesus Christ.

You can see in others what they don’t see in themselves and what the world doesn’t see in them. We all have that possibility, that potential and that promise of seeing beyond the seeming.” — Maya Angelou

Angelou wrote for her own creative satisfaction, but she was driven by the desire to encourage and inspire people beyond their limitations, whether they were self-imposed, determined by society, or handed down through history. The point of endeavor was, as she wrote, “to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” She sought to be that rainbow for anyone who could read or hear her work. I try to so the same through The Closet Professor, as we should each attempt to in our lives.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “Alone

Thank you for commenting. I always want to know what you have to say. However, I have a few rules: 1. Always be kind and considerate to others. 2. Do not degrade other people's way of thinking. 3. I have the right to refuse or remove any comment I deem inappropriate. 4. If you comment on a post that was published over 14 days ago, it will not post immediately. Those comments are set for moderation. If it doesn't break the above rules, it will post.

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