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How often have you heard someone say “Well it’s hardly surprising they had problems and got into trouble – just look at their upbringing?” It seems so often when a person falls foul of the law they resort to blaming a difficult childhood or an abusive relationship. They rush to list the problems they had as a child.

It’s never their fault – it’s usually the system or their parents or the lack of money or… The excuses are endless.

I have just been enthralled by the brief biography of Maya Angelou the famous black author who died last month.

Maya was one of two children, born in 1928 to black parents. At the age of 3 her parents divorced and she was shipped off to grandparents for four years when she returned to her mother. Her mother’s boyfriend raped her a year later and he was murdered just four days after being released from jail. Maya blamed herself for this as she had named him for the rape. She didn’t speak a word for 5 years!

She moved back to her grandparents and her troubled childhood continued when she gave birth to her son at the age of 16.

Are you getting the picture of someone who had a lot of reasons to blame life for any problems she might face?

Her life continued to take her to a variety of situations and she worked in all manner of jobs ranging from streetcar conductor to sex worker. There were at least two marriages and numerous friendships and relationships in various countries including Egypt and Ghana.

She met and worked with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on Civil Rights matters and she met a number of writers who encouraged her to put her creative talents to good use. Her first biography “I know why the caged bird sings” is well known and she went on to write much more, including screen plays, TV scripts, songs (for Roberta Flack etc.) Indeed she was the first black woman to write a successful screenplay.

Perhaps her most well known poem, “On the pulse of the morning” was the one she read in person at the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993.

So from a horrendous childhood, rape, failed marriages, disastrous times in the sex industry you might wonder how Maya Angelou survived and lived to the age of 86 and made a success of her life. In an interview with newspaper “The Times-Picayune” of New Orleans she said “I found that I knew not only that there was God but that I was a child of God, when I understood that, when I comprehended that, more than that, when I internalized that, ingested that, I became courageous,"

It is easy to blame someone else but Maya’s story shows that with the right values it is eminently possible to live a worthwhile life and be a valued and esteemed member of society.

If you want to know about this God that changes lives for the better why not join us any Sunday morning at 11am.