I love to share what I refer to as the “out of this world” story about the first time that I met Dr. Maya Angelou.

Back in my early 20’s when I lived in San Francisco, I attended Glide Memorial Church. That church was and is so uplifting and every time I attended, my soul was set on fire. In my late 20’s,  I moved an hour north of San Francisco to a small town called Cotati, and while I still occasionally attended Glide, it was with very little regularity. One Saturday when I was at work, I heard a loud voice say inside my head, GO TO GLIDE TOMORROW. I thought, That is crazy.” Why, I asked my head only to be told, “Just go.” And am I ever so grateful I listened.

I worked at a women’s fitness center at the time, and out of the blue I asked a member who I barely knew to go to Glide with me the next day. She agreed to drive into San Francisco with me because she had never been to Glide and was up for an adventure. Please keep in mind we did not know each other very well and yet we both trusted each other enough to jump in the car the next morning and head into the unknown. Very typical of me to just bond with strangers.

When we arrived it was even more difficult (than usual) to find a place to park and we noticed that outside the church looked like crowds at a rock concert.

There were people lined up down the block and my new friend and I wondered, what is going on?

We asked people in line what was happening and they proceeded to tell us that Dr. Maya Angelou was a guest speaker that day. Even though it was not public nor had it been announced in church, word got out and people came in droves.

Remember I had no idea this was going to happen but I was given a message the day before to GO!

I saw the line and felt hopeless. There was no way we would ever get in.

Something inside of me told me to go upfront. So I grabbed my friend and we went to the front of the line. This man from the church who I call an angel, recognized me and grabbed me from the crowd and gave me VIP treatment.

I have told this story many times and people always ask, “Who was he and was he coming on to you? Not at all! He told me later, he was given a message to pull me in out of the crowd, which he did.

My friend and I got great seats, and were invited to meet with Dr. Angelou after the service ended that day..

I was young back then, and now at fifty-one, when I look back at the chain of events a part of me is still in disbelief.

It gets better because this event was historic. San Francisco and Glide Memorial Church were very special to Dr. Maya Angelou and while I did not know this until afterwards, she had deliberately chosen this place as the first place to read her famous poem that she had only read on Capitol Hill at the Clinton Inauguration. The poem,  “ON THE PULSE OF MORNING” had not been spoken or shared since the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, January 20, 1993, and this was some time later.

So not only did my friend Carol and I get to listen to the poem and attend the service, we got to visit with Dr. Angelou afterwards. And I mean it when I tell you that divine grace took over. Because she spoke to us as if were old friends. 

Carol and I left  in shock that all of this transpired and I know I wept on our way home.

Ten years or so later I got to tell Dr. Maya Angelou the story when I hired her through my speakers bureau to speak at an event in Oakland California.

She was as lovely as always and of course her speech and poetry that day moved me and everyone in the audience to tears, once again.

Dr. Maya Angelou embodied power, strength, and I look up to her for courage.

When I heard the news that she died, I wept.

The tears were sweet, sprinkled with happy memories and also mixed with sorrow for her family and friends who I know loved her deeply.

Dr. Angelou, wherever you are, you live on and I thank you for how much you contributed to my life through your work and your words and your beauty. @OnePinky (Click to Tweet!)

Thank you for showing me what is possible and for teaching me to listen to that small voice within.

On a related note, after Dr. Angelou died many critized her for not having a PhD saying that multiple honorary degrees do not qualify a Dr. in their title. I love that she took on naming herself a Dr. And in my mind she embodied it like no other.

Weight Release & Body Image Coach, Laura Fenamore, is on a mission to guide women around the world to love what they see in the mirror—one pinky at a time—so they can unlock the secrets to a healthy weight and start loving their lives as soon as possible. Having overcome her own battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released over one hundred pounds twenty-four years ago, beginning her on a journey to guide other women to live more joyous, balanced lives. Laura believes that self-love and self-care is where the transformation begins. Learn more about Laura at OnePinky.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Image courtesy of Burns Library, Boston College.