“A Lifetime of Rainbow in the Clouds.”

Maya AngelouMaya’s Place, Crossroads for Women’s first transitional housing program, is named after the late great author and icon, Dr. Maya Angelou. When the idea to name the facility, first arose back in 2005, Crossroads co-founder Lisa Simpson recalls that “It seemed appropriate. Some of Angelou’s experiences mirror those of the women in our program and the kinds of outcomes we hope to help them create.”

In 2006, the women and staff at Maya’s Place actually met the esteemed author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer, Dr. Maya Angelou when St. Bernadette Institute for the Sacred Arts honored Dr. Angelou with a Mother Theresa Award. Clients and staff from Maya’s Place were invited to visit with Dr. Angelou backstage at the awards ceremony where she spoke to the women about how much courage it takes to be kind and trustful and to make a change in your life.  She spoke one-on-one with each woman in attendance that night.  One of the women described the experience using Angelou’s own writing saying “the experience was a lifetime of rainbow in the clouds.”[1]

Years after that initial meeting, Maya Angelou’s legacy has continued to leave a mark on Maya’s Place. All of the women interviewed for this special letter recounted the story about the time that a large box mysteriously arrived at Maya’s Place a few weeks after the women met Dr. Angelou.  At her request, the Pepsi Cola Company sent a large supply of Fritos and Pepsi to the women of Maya’s Place. In 2013, shortly before her passing, another box arrived.  This one contained awards granted to Angelou including the key to the City of Springfield for display at Maya’s Place.  The note contained within was simple yet meaningful:

I am honored and grateful that my name has been chosen to entitle your facility. Recently going through my collections, I discovered a few keys to cities, documents of doctorates and other awards.  My staff and I thought you might find some of them to be of use in a safe display.  We hope that you, your staff, and those who use your facility will enjoy the display and be inspired.

Joy!  Maya Angelou

Dr. Angelou’s legacy and writing still inform the work at Maya’s Place. We have spoken with the women at Maya’s Place about Dr. Angelou as a source of hope and inspiration, making sure to note that someone with international acclaim “was thinking about them…that their struggles are seen, and that they matter.”  Cory Lee, former Program Director at Maya’s Place references Dr. Angelou’s experiences to encourage clients to “live up to her spirit and never give up the fight.” Lee also uses Angelou’s work as an example of the therapeutic power of narrative writing and notes that the third stanza of Angelou’s famous poem, “Caged Bird,” often resonates with clients at Maya’s Place.  It reads:

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.[2]

No doubt the strength and integrity of Dr. Maya Angelou’s spirit will live on to inspire and impact the lives of the women at Maya’s Place and Crossroads for Women.

–Written by Heather Hawkins

 [1] This is paraphrasing of Angelou when she wrote, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Angelou, M. (2008). Letter to my daughter. New York: Random House.

[2] Graham, R. (n.d.). Caged Bird. Retrieved July 17, 2015, from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178948

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