OK, the truth is out. I occasionally watched Oprah. Her show on ABC is now over, and she is moving on to other projects so I can confess my occasional guilty pleasure. I have to say that, despite my sporadic viewership, I loved her show. It made me think about who I am, what I mean and why I am here on this earth. From watching her show, I discovered that my love of reading was perfectly normal, that being positive and grateful were good things and that my perception of life as a glass (or a ladle) half full was not only appropriate but healthy. I had known all this instinctively, but she gave voice to the notion that to explore the inner self is divine and for that I thank her.
A few weeks ago, I played my last weekend as a church organist. It had been years since I was happy at that job, and finally I took the very frightening step of quitting, with no fall back job. I’ve always struggled with finances, but when I made the decision to leave that second job, I had full faith that the Universe/God will provide what I need to survive. Whether it was foolish to take that step in this economic climate or not, it was simultaneously thrilling and paralyzing. I attached my energy to the thrilling half of the emotional equation and leapt. I will not look back and I do not regret that decision. Regret has no place in my life. I learned that from Oprah.
This morning Rick and I had a conversation about the words “I can’t”. To me, they don’t exist. “I can’t” really means, “I haven’t figured out how yet”. There is nothing we can’t do. Perhaps the things we want to do are difficult, or require specific training or skill in order to achieve. Perhaps they will force us to confront some of our deepest fears, or overcome emotional obstacles that are decades old. I want to skydive someday, but am afraid of falling. It’s possible to overcome that, however. I want to see Broadway shows, but am ridiculously uncomfortable in crowds. I can (and will) work past that, though. Paul McCartney wrote in his song Blackbird, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” My moment has arisen and I will learn to fly. I learned that from Oprah, too.
One of my students is fond of saying she can’t do things. Fact is, she’s never been pushed to succeed. Fact is, she’s a smart kid but has always been told she was dumb. She has learning challenges, so reading is difficult for her. However, she thinks that, if she doesn’t confront her learning issues, they will go away. I can’t force her to believe in herself, but I can repeatedly say to her “You CAN do this. You just haven’t found the way that works for you yet.” Hopefully, one day, she will begin to believe in herself. That would be the greatest gift I could give her.
“Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.” – Oprah Winfrey, 5/26/11
I haven’t figured out what my calling is yet. I hope to find it, and, when I do, I will embrace it. I may also wind up living it but not recognizing it. Perhaps my calling is to work with students and show them how to succeed. Perhaps my calling is to feed people. Perhaps my calling is to encourage and support and be a friend. Perhaps my calling is to go to a foreign place and encourage a person there, who will, in turn, go out and do great things.
The day before her last show, ABC aired the second half of a star-studded extravaganza tribute to Oprah. The most touching moment of the show was when Kristen Chenoweth sang “For Good” while 200 young men that have been recipients of the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship at Morehouse College entered the auditorium from the rear and filled the stage and aisles, carrying candles that symbolized the ability to build a new life through education. She has spent $12 million of her own money to put over 450 young men through college since 1989. The impact of that one action is phenomenal and far-reaching. I don’t have $12 million to give to anyone, I barely have two nickels to rub together. However, I have a big heart and that counts for something in the long run.
Thank you, Oprah, for helping me understand that even the smallest pebbles make waves that widen and spread. The farthest shore will never feel the effect of our energy unless we drop ourselves into the center of the pond and start the first ripple.
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