This morning brought the news that one of those heroes of words and spirit passed away. My gut panged as I reflected on this loss. Maya Angelou is a collective body of work and an incredible teacher. Her words have moved me, connected me and encouraged me. They challenge and they drive me. I have sat in her presence in a couple of different settings that I knew in those moments I sat with someone of rich character. I remember thinking in those encounters that I would value hearing her words alive in my ears throughout my lifetime.

My day continued forward, I received a call from a parent. She shared that she had contacted the local news with a story about her child and Joyner. Her daughter, Olivia, has made the decision to ask for donations for clean water for people in Uganda rather than ask for birthday gifts. She has taken this wish to the next step in setting up a website to make it happen. The parent involved Joyner as she shared her joy with how Joyner was a part of encouraging Olivia to think and act in this way. The local news station came out and interviewed Olivia. She captivated the photographer. The parents spoke with me afterward and celebrated the work of the staff at Joyner.

As I look back at these two moments of my day, I see a grand connection of hope of spirit. I see the gifts that Maya Angelou gave in her words. She encouraged people to move and act and be better and be themselves completely. And here at Joyner, I saw an example of what I see so often, I saw a little girl who has moved us. A little girl who has acted on her spirit. A little girl who sees her world as a bigger place.

I am proud to have this live connection today. While I am sad for the loss of someone I honor, I am so glad to see the hope that our children continue to offer to us all. And grateful to the teachers and parents who encourage and celebrate that spirit.