Just Like a Mother

Maya Angelou  Dr. Maya Angelou, writer, poet, teacher, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the US), tells the story about how she became the first African-American streetcar conductor at the age of sixteen in San Francisco.

She told her mother that she wanted that job for the summer, and when her mother asked why, Angelou said that she admired the uniform the female streetcar conductors wore (a woman after my own heart!).  Her mother encouraged her to apply, and when she was turned down because she was black, her mother told her to show up every day and sit in the office until someone would speak to her and give her an interview.  Although it took two full weeks, her persistence paid off, and Angelou was finally given the job.

Her shift would begin early in the morning, long before sunrise.  Though many would agree that such a position would be unsafe for a sixteen-year-old girl, especially in the dark hours of morning in downtown San Francisco, her mother allowed her to do it because she wanted the job.

However, Angelou shares that her mother would drive her down to the wharf in the wee hours of the morning, a loaded pistol on the front seat, to drop her off at her streetcar.  She then would follow the streetcar, in the car with her pistol, as Angelou would traverse the streets of San Francisco.  At daybreak, her mother would wave and go home.Maya Angelou streetcar conductor

I love this story for a number of reasons, but I’m particularly struck by her mother’s willingness to allow her to do what she wanted to do, yet at the same time, she protectively stayed close by.  I think this story can give us an image of how the Father, Son, and Spirit enjoy seeing us use our individual talents and express our distinct personalities, giving us complete freedom, but always staying close by.

Far too often, we go through this life thinking we are on our own, or maybe we believe that whatever we do for fun or for work is outside the realm of the spiritual.  I see this story as another reminder that “in him [Christ] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  We are unique creations, each given specific gifts and desires that, when used properly, bring great joy to others, ourselves, and our God.

We need to see the Father, Son, and Spirit as accompanying us in our day-to-day activities (with or without a pistol on the front seat!), loving, watching, and participating with great pleasure as we fulfill our place in the world.

~by Nan Kuhlman

photos courtesy of OWN

4 comments so far

  1. teen mom to teens on

    Hello there 🙂 Love your posts.
    I nominated you for this 🙂


    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Dear Teen Mom,

      I’m honored! After looking through your list of nominees (including yourself), I can see I’m in good company. Thank you for thinking of trinityandhumanity.com, and I’m glad you’re encouraged in meeting the challenges you’re faced with by our words here!

      Have a great day!
      P.S. I’m a fan of “digging in the dirt,” too. Whether it’s our “inner child” or just reconnecting with the Creator through the creation, it’s still restorative!

      • teen mom to teens on

        Yes, being in with nature and “digging in the dirt” certainly brings you closer to God. It’s incredible how He formed us right out of the dust. It’s very peaceful and serene to become one with it 🙂
        Thanks for your posts, I do enjoy them very much. Just a couple of weeks ago I was feeling as if my “well” was drying out and I read your post on Ephesians 3 and I suddenly was reminded on so many things and I felt the Holy Spirit ignite in me again. Thank you 🙂

      • Nan Kuhlman on

        Dear Teen Mom,

        That’s an encouragement to me, and as much as I’d like to take credit for the post about Ephesians 3, I’m pleased to tell you that it was written by another of our six writers, Jonathan Stepp. Jonathan has many other insightful posts you could check out (click on By Jonathan Stepp on the sidebar), and he has a gift for making scriptures clear through common-sense, everyday analogies.

        As for your “well” going a little dry, that happens to everyone, and that’s why relationships (whether it is face-to-face or online) with each other are so important. Our interconnection with one another and with God is nurtured as we lovingly care and encourage others, much the way you’ve done with Jonathan and me through your comment! Thanks again!


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