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Reaching For Hearts

“‎The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.”

~ Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was one of the most amazing women in American History. She was a poet, memoirist, essayist, and human rights activist. Most importantly, though, Angelou was a wise person who always strove to have a positive impact on those with whom she made contact.

At first glance, one might think that Angelou devalued the first goal of reaching the stars as compared to that of reaching hearts. That certainly was my first reaction. As I thought about her words, I realised that her emphasis on the second desire was not at the expense of the desire to reach the stars.

As a person who served for more than three decades in a high school classroom, I lived the reality of young people who were struggling with dreams for a bright future, as well as that of teens who had already lost hope and were embittered. The loudest voice in society calls for youngsters to strive for success – in their careers and earning power. Muted are the urgings for them to endeavour to share their hearts and live positive lives loving their fellow human beings.

I spent my entire career teaching in a Roman Catholic school system in Ontario where religion and family life courses were part of the curriculum. There was hardly a day when the school community wasn’t reminded to love each other, to be respectful and caring, and to be generous to those who had less or were suffering. Fantastic charitable events were organised and carried out each school year as students were invited to actively participate.

And yet, one wonders if much of these messages were internalised. I believe that this is what Maya Angelou is saying. To reach hearts isn’t something we decide to do from time to time, it is a way of life that stems from an attitude. When we speak of attitude, we mean a settled way of thinking about something. Note the word ‘settled’. My attitude is as much a part of me as my blue eyes. My behaviour will always reflect my thinking. So it matters not what I say or what I do from time to time, but it does matter how I behave consistently and without forethought because that reflects my attitude.

Angelou declares “‎The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” The wisdom in this desire or goal is that it will become the foundation of your own happiness. We all wish to be happy. Most of us understand that no one else on the planet can make that happen for us. If I cannot create and maintain a ‘happy me’, then I’m just out of luck. Angelou is giving us the key. Reach the hearts of others, and I will be happy. I have already lived most of my life, and I know from my own living that I derive the greatest pleasure from serving others. People ask me what I want for Christmas or a birthday, and my response is always the same. I don’t care – it doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to be negative, just honest. Getting gifts is nice, but the real thrill is giving gifts… so I don’t care what I get.

We are also told that this desire to reach hearts is very possible. I understand this to mean that I can create a ‘settled way of thinking’ about this desire that I can carry with me for the rest of my life. If I succeed, this attitude will be reflected in all that I do and say – and refrain from doing and saying. Alas, I’m not there yet. I am very grateful to have the recorded wisdom of a wise and caring woman like Maya Angelou. She continues to reach hearts from beyond the grave. That is considerable power!

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

10 thoughts on “Reaching For Hearts”

  1. A wonderful post, John! Maya’s graceful, yet profound strength and wisdom has left a remarkable legacy. It’s her words that gave rise to my writing journey. I often read her work and listen to recordings of her reciting her poetry. It’s penetrating, indeed.
    I pray others live a life of gratitude and give with grace.
    Thanks for sharing this with us. I always enjoy your posts and pause in self-reflection. 🙂


  2. “There was hardly a day when the school community wasn’t reminded to love each other, to be respectful and caring …” Wow! Imagine if that was part of the mission statement of all schools. Would that help to change the mindsets of inner-city youths? Great post, John!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You ask a fair but difficult question, Linda. I count myself fortunate that I never taught in an inner-city school like the kind you reference here, so I’m not qualified to speak to that. But I’m sure that messages like the ones I mentioned will have some impact if they are modelled by the staff – no matter what kind of student population is on the receiving end. Thanks for letting us know your thoughts here!


  3. Maya has been a wonderful influence on many. I have had a framed print with one of her verses in my den for years…”God never leaves me. In my ignorance, I have frequently thought I have left God, but that is altogether impossible.”
    Thanks for a great post, John.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Mae. I’m a big fan of Maya Angelou and no matter our colour, creed or gender, we owe this lady a great debt for her lifelong demonstration of how to live well. Thank you for chiming in today!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Maya has guided me for decades and opened doors in my heart that I did not know existed. She is an amazing woman who lives through her writing and all the hearts she reaches. ♥

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, indeed, Maya is all of that. I know I would die a happy man if my writing and my living could impact a small fraction of the souls that she has touched with her love and wisdom. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Gwen!

      Liked by 1 person

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