Poet Laureate Maya Angelou passed away last week at age 86. Active in the civil rights movement, she became a celebrated poet, novelist, educator, dramatist, and producer,
The list of her published works included over 30 best-selling titles including her internationally acclimated auto-biographical book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
While her early life was troubled and controversial as she struggled with poverty and racial prejudice, Maya Angelou rose above it, and achieved great success. Like many people I was first introduced to Angelou when she read her specially written poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at Bill Clinton’s 1993 Presidential inauguration.
Though not an avid reader of her books, in perusing quotations from her varied works, I was struck by the number of quotes that speak to helping other people. Here are a few.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
“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.”
“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
“Prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.”
From a Biblical perspective Christianity is about helping others. When I help others, I help myself. And when I give, I grow. When I become the rainbow in someone else’s cloud, I brighten my own life. Here’s how.
1. Through helping others we find and fulfill our purpose in life. Think of the many professions in life that specifically focus on meeting the needs of others. Physicians. Police Officers. Firefighters. All of these and many others serve. Christians, of course, enjoy a profession of faith (Eph. 4:1) through which we can serve both the physical and spiritual needs of a lost world (Mk. 16:15-16)
2. There is always a beneficial return on good done with a right motive. The Bible says,”Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Gal. 6:7-8)
There are three things I know about sowing and reaping. (1) You reap what you sow. (2) You reap more than you sow. (3) You reap later than you sow. This is true in farming. It is true in life. It is true as we sow seeds of goodness. Kindness. Love. And forgiveness. You harvest the fruit of those attitudes and actions. This is why Paul concludes this text by saying, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
3. Enjoying an abundant life comes when we help others. Jesus said he came that we might “have life in all its fullness” (Jn 10:10). He also taught that greatness comes through serving. “There are three keys to more abundant living,” wrote William Ward. “Caring about others, daring for others, and sharing with others.” Or as Norman MacEwan expressed it, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
4. Helping others empowers you. Selfishness drains our energy. Saps our strength. Debilitates our mental and emotional resources. The psychiatrist Alfred Adler said, “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow-man who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from such individuals that all human failure springs.”
Today determine to be the rainbow in another person’s cloud. It will brighten your life both in time and in eternity.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman