The Epitome Of Sophistication

“Senegal” is one of the stories that Maya Angelou wrote in her book entitled “Letter To My Daughter”.

Maya was invited to a formal dinner in Dakar, Senegal by her friend whom she met in Paris. She described that their living room was beautiful furnished, and guests were enjoying a full-blown party. As she walked into another room, she noticed that guests were standing along the wall and carefully not to step on the beautiful oriental rug in the center of the room.


(photo credit

Maya immediately thought about a women in Egypt who would not allow her servants to walk on her rugs… thus, it “plummeted in my estimation”, Maya said.  She decided to walk across the center of the rug, and did so back and forth four, five times while admiring the paintings on the wall.

A few minutes later, when Maya was engaging a conversation with a guest, two maids came in the room. They rolled up the rug that she had walked on and carried it away.  Then, they came back with another exquisite rug and carefully spread it on the floor, then began to place glasses, silverware, and wine on the carpet.  When the dishes were brought to the carpet, the hostess announced that the dinner was “For our sister from America.” She waved at Maya and said, “For Maya Angelou.”

Maya recalled…as all the guests sank to the floor her face and neck burned.  “I sat, but I found swallowing hard to do. The food had to force its way over that knot of embarrassment.”  She continued:

In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons.  The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity.”

So many times when I have had the urge to walk on someone’s “carpet” based on my own assumption or judgement, her story always reminds me to “offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons”, but to accept the differences. Thank you, Maya!

Maya Letter to my

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