Imagine being an infant and just learning how to walk, but your family can’t afford shoes for your feet. Imagine being so poor that instead of wearing dresses to school, like the other girls, you have to wear potato sacks refashioned to look like a dress.
Imagine not even knowing your mother or father because they left you, after separating from each other, shortly after you were born. Imagine being sexually abused by family members and family friends beginning when you were nine-years old.
Circumstances were so bad, you thought running away from home, at age 13, seemed liked a good alternative. Then, a year later, you become pregnant with your first child, only to lose the child shortly after birth.
None of those circumstances paint a picture of hope of a positive future. None of those circumstances would lead many people to continue to strive for greatness. How could you wake up in the morning and dream of doing great things when basic survival was the order of the day?
Most people see Oprah Winfrey, and they see one of the most successful people in the history of the world. Talk show star, movie star, movie director and producer, owner of her own company and the first black female billionaire. But the success that everyone sees from afar was that last thing anyone could imagine in 1954.
That was the year Oprah was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her unmarried parents split up shortly after she was born and left her on the farm with her grandmother, who raised her for six years. Life on the farm was sparse, but Oprah’s grandma was a stickler for reading.
Her grandmother taught Oprah to read by the time she was 2.5 years old, and grandma was tough on her when she started school. Oprah skipped Kindergarten, writing a note to the teacher telling the teacher that she belonged, instead, in first grade. Oprah was promoted to third grade after that first year of school.
Unfortunately, when she was six-years old, her mother sent for her, and the grandmother sent Oprah to Milwaukee to live with her mother and two half-brothers. The sexual abuse began three years later. At age 12 her mother sent her to live with her father in Nashville, but her mother would call her back periodically, so Oprah shuttled between Nashville and Milwaukee, never having much stability in her homelife.
Her father was a barber and a businessman, and he had served in the military. He instilled discipline in Oprah, and he made her education a priority. She lived with him, full time, for the remainder of her high school years. It was during this time that she began to thrive, and, perhaps, the turning point in her life was upon her.
[Come back next Wednesday to see how it all turns out]