I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Oprah Winfrey's program last Monday. Her guest was an author, Geneen Roth, who has written a book about women’s relationships with food and their relationships with God. The premise of the book is that if you get things right with yourself and with God, then you can probably structure a healthier relationship with food; you will have less of a tendency to fill up the emptiness with food.
Oprah had read the book, clearly believes in the content, and along with Ms. Roth, was enthusiastically offering her commentary and taking questions from the audience.
Several members of the studio audience asked questions about family mealtimes, dieting, busy schedules, etc. One particular question was a bit unstructured. The viewer seemed discouraged that she was never quite able to get ahead professionally. The question may have also had an underlying inquiry about food, but I don’t recall that now.
I was busy putting dishes in the dishwasher and as Oprah started to answer this question, I stopped to listen. Then I walked closer to the television. It was a watershed moment: Oprah was giving this viewer the essential answer to life. Right there. In person. And everyone, including me, got the added benefit of receiving this important piece of information too.
It may sound like I am dismissing Oprah’s communication as a bit of trivia, but I am not. Quite the contrary. The secret that Oprah shared is a fundamentally important lesson and while a lot of people know it, it is still elusive. This knowledge becomes easy to misplace in the multi-tasking, multi-threaded, deadline oriented lives that we lead.
Oprah told her viewer, point blank, that the starting point for her (and all of us) was to humbly give thanks to God for the many many blessings in her life. Live in that place of gratitude. And be thankful for the things that are yet to come, including the experiences that will teach us lessons. You are not to cast about comparing your life with what you perceive as bounty in others’ lives. You do not know the burdens they carry because you do not walk in their shoes. Look at your own life, connect with God in your heart and walk forward in joy.
Now, I’m not trying to put words in Oprah’s mouth. There are no quotation marks; she didn’t say this exactly, but it is what I heard. This singular all-important message. The central meaning of life. The key to human happiness.
I doubt that this viewer, who showed up at the Harpo studio earlier that day, had any inkling of the gift that was she was about to receive. A gift that has the ability to change her perception of everything. I didn’t expect to receive it either, randomly tuning in to see Oprah’s program for about the third time in my life. But it is a miracle that I did and I am ever so grateful.