May 25, 2011 – The Big Lesson From The Big O

Her final words were not "good bye"...but "until we meet again. To God be the glory"

Today millions of people watched as Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to the show that bears her first name.  After two shows this week filled with surprise visits from movie stars, singers, comedians and poets, she ended her 25-year run on television with one guest.  Her audience. 

She reminisced, joked, and yes, she teared up a bit in certain parts.  But she also shared her gratitude.  She thanked the audience and viewers for sharing their lives with her.  And she thanked her staff for devoting and giving up so much of theirs. 

Despite those millions of viewers, there are many who criticize or question her politics, her spiritual beliefs, etc.  But no one can question the facts – Oprah has changed the world.  Literally.

–  She started out The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago.  Twenty five years later, she has reached way beyond the city limits.  As far-reaching as starting her own school in South Africa.  As deep as exploring the impact of sexual abuse, mental illness and alcoholism on our society.  As high as showing us how to live healthier, happier and dream bigger. 

–  She hand-picked almost 70 books and asked her viewers to read them, think about them, and discuss them.  They responded by purchasing an estimated 55 million copies.

–  In 1997, she asked her viewers to donate to the Oprah Angel Network by adding the spare change from their pockets and purses to the pot.  All that change made a difference in the lives of school children, victims of natural disasters, and those in impoverished communities. 

All of this comes from a little girl born in a small Mississippi town.  A little girl who is now the richest African-American of the 20th century.  And considered by many to be the most influential woman in the world. 

During her last show today, she also shared many of the lessons she’s learned through living and through her show.  She talked about feeling self-worth and value in our lives.  And she politely but firmly addressed those who get “riled” up and question which God she refers to and worships.  She acknowledged and expressed gratitude to God’s grace and His presence in her life. 

But Oprah started out the show with the biggest lesson she’s learned.  One exemplified in her own life.  “We all are called.  Everybody has a calling and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it.”

She also said “A calling lights you up and it lets you know you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing….know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

And “You are responsible for the energy you create for yourself and you are responsible for the energy you bring to others.”

Very wise words to learn from and live by.

On a personal note, I am one of the few males who will miss the Oprah Show.  When it started, I was in my mid-twenties.  I was lost and trying to find my way in life.  And when I started on a better path, the lessons I learned from Oprah and her guests helped show me the way. 

The first day I saw her, I recognized she had a presence about her.  Presence.  I first had an “a-ha” moment of the word in college when I had the opportunity to meet Coretta Scott King.  She was in town for an event and the black students of William Jewell College were invited to meet her.  We sat in a suite at the Crown Center hotel and waited for her to arrive.  And when she entered the room, it was, for me, like a light suddenly flooded the room.  I had grown up with pictures of her…marching for civil rights…and at the funeral for her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King.  But it was more than just seeing a picture come to life.  It was an energy that filled the room.  She radiated with a physical beauty and a stoic spirit.  I FELT her presence. 

Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize people with this energy…that PRESENCE.  It’s those individuals who are comfortable in their skin, with who they are and what they are supposed to be doing.  They inspire those they encounter, they enlighten those they engage, and they impact those who are in need. 

Oprah will no longer be present at 4 pm each Monday through Friday.  We’ll still see her on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).  But it’s her presence, or the presence of God, that many will continue to feel in their minds, hearts and spirits. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.                                 Matthew 5:16

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