I am better today than I was yesterday

I’m not perfect. I never will be. But I am working everyday to make myself better today then yesterday. ~Intentionallyrefined.com

I have been listening to orators lately in an attempt to uplift myself. My heart is breaking because of my relationship with someone who is learning that the company they keep could potentially be their downfall. I remember having to learn this lesson myself. I didn’t see how the company I kept was a direct reflection of where I was headed. And how the people who loved me would indirectly feel the repercussions of my actions or inaction.

One of the orators I listened to was James Baldwin. The speech, “Baldwin speech in Harlem,” via YouTube. At some point in this speech, he recites Langston Hughes’ poem Mother to son. This poem makes me nostalgic. It brings about my memory as a little girl in elementary school when I recited the poem before my class.

To have stumbled upon James Baldwin’s speech, someone I admire reciting a poem that holds a message that speaks to my current situation is like a cool glass of water on a hot summer day. I needed to hear it. Then it happened again the other day at work in the elevator. I’ll call him Mr. Charlie, I heard the words of Mother to Son rise up in a chance encounter.

I had already been given a heads up by my colleague that this elderly man had a whole lot to share about his life. It was the day after he shared his story with my colleague that I cross paths with him. I walking through the lobby. When the doors chimed Mr. Charlie came walking up. I had to ride up seven floors and I thought I’d escape his storytelling. I caught glimpses of him in my peripheral view, his hair speckled with gray. His jaw hung open enough to see the spaces between his teeth. I felt his energy wanting to say something, but unsure if the woman in the cap would even return a good morning.

I knew from my colleague that Mr. Charlie just had a birthday. And that his mini-speech would include how he managed to work fifty-four years. This is what I thought about standing there watching the doors close. I resisted his welcoming energy. I figured I heard it before through my colleague. My pain told me that no matter what anybody said, I still had to go through the process. I didn’t want to hear his story—if I can do it, you can do it.

I continued to steal glimpses of him. I soon succumbed to his energy. I relaxed and I opened up to the energy he was projecting upon me. And he let me have it and that’s when the poem, “Mother to Son,” came flooding back for the second time.

Mr. Charlie, “Good morning! I’ve been working for fifty-four years.”

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—



“It’s been hard, but I did it.”

But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,


“I was working over at X-job for twenty-four years before I came here.”

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark


“I’ve been here for thirty years.”

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.


“The X-delegate sent me a card!” He pulled it from his breast pocket of his charcoal gray uniform jacket. It was special, he made me see how significant something like this was to a man who had lived a life worthy of sharing with a stranger.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.


“I just had a birthday. I turned XX – years old! Been working for fifty-years. If I can do it-anybody can do it!”

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.


“Been working hard – still working hard. God said, show his strength through working.”

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.


The mind wants what the mind wants. We see what we want to see. We get what we focus on. If, like in my case, you can’t access the best parts of life from within yourself because the pain is crushing you, at least try to receive it from the outside when it meets you where you are.

And what does that mean? Allow the laughter of a child to soothe your pain. Embrace a hug from a stranger. Invite a smile when it’s posed to you. Ease drop on a joke. Share in the happiness of others. Pour in hope and soak yourself in it. And although I am not where I want to be, I know that around the corner I have lessened my pain some way somehow.

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