Maya Angelou sat down in her home one afternoon with Complaint Free World Founder, Will Bowen. She shared her vision of a world transformed by only 1% of our global population ceasing to complain. This is a powerful and inspiring video delivered with conviction. (3:11)
If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
Maya Angelou was a poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. President Barack Obama presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
What follows is an excerpt from Fr. George Smiga's homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time in which he used an episode from a chapter in her autobiography, Wouldn't Take Nothing for my Journey Now (PDF). Fr. Smiga then relates it to Jesus' Parable of the Workers:
Maya’s grandmother had very little patience with complainers. Whenever one of the town whiners would come into the store to buy anything, she made sure that Maya was called in to witness the event. Once Maya was in the store, her grandmother would say to the complainer, “How are things going?” Immediately the grumbler would begin to say how terribly hot it was. It was the hottest he could ever remember it to be. He couldn’t stand the sweltering heat. And how much plowing he had to do. It seemed that each year there was more. And his equipment was getting older and it was becoming more difficult. Now all the time that he was rambling on, Maya’s grandmother would look at her granddaughter to make sure she was paying attention.
When the whiner finally left, her grandmother took Maya aside and said to her, “Child, there are people who went to sleep last night, rich and poor, black and white, who will never wake up again. And every one of those dead people would give all that they had for five minutes of this hot weather, for five minutes of this difficult plowing. So, be careful, child, about complaining. If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, then change the way you think about it. But don’t be a complainer, because complaining will rob you of life.”
"The advice of Maya Angelou’s grandmother," said Fr. Smiga, "dovetails with the words of the landowner in today’s gospel to those who complain: “Take what belongs to you and go.” Live the life you have been given, not the life that you wish you had been given, not the life that other people have been given. Live your life fully because complaining will only diminish you, only lessen you."
"So, what is it you complain about? Your spouse? Your children? Your parents? Your job? Your retirement? Your church? Your government? Your health? Be careful about complaining because it can rob you of life. Instead, take what belongs to you and go. If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it then change the way you think about it. But, don’t waste your time complaining. Life is simply too short for that."