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Maya Angelou is my favourite poet. She was a great teacher and poet who had lived a challenging life as an African American woman and suffered all kinds of challenges and hardships. But as she went through life she accumulated wisdom and shared all that she had learned. By the end of her life Maya Angelou was a highly respected figure in the US and spoke at Barack Obama’s inauguration. She was also great friend and mentor to Oprah Winfrey, who spoke at her funeral.

Maya Angelou left us a lot but one key message I got from watching a BBC documentary about her life was this: Bring your people with you.

Think of the people who are no longer with you, those who have supported you or been kind to you. Carry the spirit of those people on your shoulders. When you walk into the room, carry them with you and that will imbue you with great confidence and self assurance. Anyone who has ever been kind to you, anyone who has ever believed in you, bring that with you in to the room.

What a powerful message.

November is a month of remembrance. As Catholics at the beginning of the month we celebrate the feast of All Souls. Later this week we will take part in remembrance services to commemorate those who died in the service of our country.

I’ve been very fortunate in my life as I have yet to experience significant bereavement and I know that many of you have experienced significant losses of a parent, a partner or a child so your understanding of this will be greater than mine. What I have experienced is support and kindness from amazing grandparents and friends who have now passed away.

Two of these people are my grandmother, my Nanna who passed away three years ago. Nanna had an incredible gift for making each one of us feel special and I know this feeling is shared by her five children, their partners, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. As well as setting an incredible example through her faith and love, she made it clear that she was incredibly proud of us and gave us the belief that we could do whatever we set our minds to.

The second person was a dear friend and colleague who also set an incredible example to others through the way he served and cared for the most vulnerable children in a large and challenging secondary school. I have had the privilege to work with many incredible people in my teaching career but Steve was exceptional. He was a great supporter and letter writer and would tell me and my colleagues in the early days of our careers that we were a force for good, that we must shine our lights brightly and that without doubt we made a difference to the children in our care. If everyone had cheerleaders like this we’d have no trouble retaining our young teachers.

When I’m coaching people to reach for their goals I ask my clients to dig in to their strengths, examples of past successes and the support and resources they have to give them the confidence to reach for their goals and the resilience to persevere in seeing it through.

And this is something you can use: think of the people in your life who have been kind to you, who have believed in you and bring your people with you.

Please share and let me know- whose spirit do you carry with you and what did they teach you?