On her show that aired Monday, Oprah Winfrey gave more than 300 audience members each a $1,000 debit card sponsored by the Bank of America to donate to a charitable cause.

Famous for giving members of her audience new cars, paying off their debts, or fulfilling their wildest dreams, Oprah has now given what she calls the “gift of giving back. Noting that “I can honestly say that every gift I've ever given has brought at least as much happiness to me as it has to the person I've given it to”, Oprah told the audience, “That's the feeling I want to pass on to you.”

Under Oprah's rules the recipients of the $1,000 can give the entire sum to one person (family members and other relatives excluded) or they can divide it among a variety of charitable causes. “…you're going to spend it all at once on one stranger or spend a dollar on every person. Imagine the love and kindness you can spread with $1,000”, Oprah told her audience.

Each recipient was also given a DVD recorder to tape their stories for a future show.

Oprah's action gives massive exposure to an experiment launched six years ago in Southern California where a minister handed out $100 bills from the church's treasury to 100 volunteers in the congregation. Each volunteer was instructed to use the money beyond the church in a way that would help others.

Called the Kingdom Assignment and designed to encourage people to discover creative ways to help others, the concept has been adopted and is growing primarily in churches in the U.S. and around the world.

The originator of the concept according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy is Denny Bellesi, founding pastor of the nondenominational Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, California. The Rev. Bellesi claims to have received his inspiration for the idea partly from the Bible and partly from the 2000 movie, Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt.

Where the concept has been applied it has indeed apparently yieled creative and impressive results. According to the Chronicle one Orange County donor managed to parlay her $1000 gift into the creation of a battered womens' shelter. And, perhaps more importantly, the publicity encourages a wide range of additional experimentation and charitable giving.

Continue reading “Oprah and the Gift of Giving Back”

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