We had the privilege of having M.J. Fièvre, Haiti’s beloved author, educator, and publisher on Love University at the Miami Book Festival. Raised in an environment of silence, trauma, guilt, and violence, M.J. Fievre signed her first book contract at age 19 and was able to find the love within—inspiring many people worldwide with her fiction and nonfiction artistic creations.
Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom we learned from M.J at Love University:
*Own Your Past: When M.J. wrote her memoir about her difficult childhood, many of her family members turned against her—she had violated the taboo of speaking up about personal issues. Yet, her advice to would-be writers and those who need to tell their story is this: “You own everything that has happened to you.” In other words, don’t hide, deny, or feel guilty about your past, share your story with others—whether in written or verbal form—and you will discover relief, peace, and inner acceptance.
*Tomorrow will be better: Growing up in Haiti, she was exposed to protests, looting, shooting, and home invasions. Fear was her daily companion. Yet, M.J. advises us to realize that, although life can be difficult at times, the bad things will pass—good things will come. Our aim is to work daily to bring good, optimism, love, and gratitude into our lives as we do the same for others. That is one of the true secrets of happiness.
*Light Your Own Fire/Accept Your Nature: M.J. describes her lifelong struggle with depression, and gives readers hope in her book of poetry about mental illness: “Happy, Ok?” She says we can shake off the stigma of mental illness and accept who we are—and that we can get better—by finding our unique inner voice. If we constantly look toward others to validate our happiness, we will rarely be happy for long—people disappoint us, leave us, and eventually die. The key is to accept our true selves—the good, the bad; the beautiful,. the not-so beautiful, and love ourselves as the special divine creatures that we are.
*Lovingness is Greatness: M.J describes how she helped soldiers find survivors after Haiti’s earthquake and gave writing workshops to children in Haiti so they could use writing and reading to escape negativity and live creatively and joyously. She says that, although some of these activities were hard and cost her a price, by giving love to others, she tapped into an ultimate healing force. She says our society encourages the self-centered ego to flourish, but giving to, and helping others, allows our inner greatness—our lovingness—to flourish—as we humbly use our special talents and abilities to make this world a more loving and better place.
The beauty of M.J.’s message is simple: Give a voice to others and you give a voice to yourself. Love others, and you love yourself. Look in the mirror and say, “I can help and I can grow and I can give,” and your life will be a rising tide of contribution and joy, washing away the seeds of discontent and the mist of sadness. Together, we can help create a world worthy of love.