I'm one of the blessed ones. I get paid—highly—for being myself and for doing what I most enjoy: sharing ideas with other people. I live a big life. But in reality it's the small things that fill me up. I sliced a fresh peach today that was so sweet, so succulent, so divinely peachy that even as I was eating it I thought, "There are no words to adequately describe this peach—one has to taste it to understand the true definition of peachiness." I closed my eyes, the better to feel the flavor. Even that wasn't enough, though, so I saved the last two bites to share with Stedman, to see if he affirmed my assessment of best peach ever. He took the first bite and said, "Mmm, mmm, mmm...this peach reminds me of childhood." And so that small thing got bigger, as all things do when shared in a spirit of appreciation.
This summer while I was visiting the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa, four seventh graders came to my little house on campus to escort me to their dorm for a surprise. When I walked into the recreation area, there stood the entire class: 63 girls, all in uniform, many with musical instruments, others prepared to recite a poem and then sing a song they'd composed to thank me for the opportunities they've been given at the school. No fanfare, no stage. Just me, the school's resident mother, and Gayle's two children, William and Kirby, listening to the girls pour out their appreciation.
Of course, I cried.
And when they finished, I said, "Girls, I've received many awards and accolades, but nothing have I felt more deeply than what you did here on your own today."
One child said, "Mum Oprah, we didn't know what to give you, so we decided to give you ourselves. This is from our hearts."
That was an aha moment for me—to experience how a "small" act can actually have a huge impact.
The largesse of their efforts to show their gratitude—to secretly compose, rehearse, and perform their own song and poetry—is the sweetest gift. I'll treasure it forever.
What I know for sure: Any act of appreciation affirms our connection to each other. Validates us. Expands who we are in the world. Deepens our spirit. And can turn an ordinary moment into an extraordinary peachy and praiseful day.
Go Behind the Scenes: Watch Gayle and Oprah at the October 2009 O, The Oprah Magazine cover shoot
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From the October 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine