Photo: Courtesy of Oprah Winfrey
It's not that I've always known who I would be. It was just very clear to me from an early age who I wouldn't be.
The opportunities for a girl born black in Mississippi in 1954 were limited. You could teach in a segregated school. Or be a maid. A cook. A dishwasher. A servant. I never thought that would be the life for me.
I vividly remember standing on my grandmother's small screened-in back porch, churning butter while she boiled clothes in a big black cast-iron pot in the yard. As she pulled the steaming clothes from the pot to hang on the line to dry, she called to me, "Oprah Gail, you better watch me now, 'cause one day you gon' have to know how to do this for yourself."
I did what she told me. I watched carefully as she pulled the clothespins from her apron, held them two at a time between her lips, and placed one and then the other on opposite ends of the sheets and towels and shirts and dresses she hung on the line.
A still, small voice inside me, really more a feeling than a voice, said, "This will not be your life. Your life will be more than hanging clothes on a line."
The certainty of that divine assurance got me through many a difficult moment during my growing years.
I wanted to be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be. I never imagined it would be on TV.
I believe there's a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value and purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware. And awakened. To answer the call.
From the November 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!