Riches finds riches in story told on Oprah

Published 1:10 am Sunday, April 13, 2008

NATCHEZ — Though Lani Riches was on The Oprah Winfrey Show, it’s the story within that she’ll carry with her for a lifetime.

Riches, who with her husband owns Monmouth, had breast cancer 20 years ago and ten years ago and through a mutual friend, began counseling Vivian Stringer, Rutgers women’s basketball coach.

Though the two never met face to face, Riches said Stringer would call her late at night and Riches would comfort her.

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“She would cry and I would listen and give her advice,” Riches said.

She said whenever she would talk to Stringer, it was as though she were just another woman in distress who needed help.

It didn’t matter that she was the coach for Rutgers women’s basketball.

“It wouldn’t have made any difference to me,” Riches said. “All I thought was, here is this woman who just needs to be loved.”

Riches said she believes that any woman who’s faced any outstanding trial or tribulation has been given the strength and wisdom to minister to other women going through similar experiences.

“The Bible says, ‘With the comfort you’ve been given, you will comfort others,’” Riches said. “It was natural for me.”

Stringer has become a well-known motivational speaker and recently published a book, “Standing Tall,” hence her appearance on Oprah.

In her book, Stringer mentions Riches in several paragraphs.

“She called her an angel,” Riches said.

The Oprah Winfrey Show contacted Riches to be a surprise guest on the show.

She was found by the show through the mutual friend, Susan Munao, who initially connected Stringer to Riches.

“I was shocked when Susan called and she said Oprah was looking for me,” Riches said. “I asked, ‘Why me?’”

Then it all came rushing back to Riches and plans to fly to Chicago for the show were quickly underway.

Riches was contacted four days before the show was taped, which was taped two or three weeks before it aired on Tuesday.

As Winfrey was interviewing Stringer, she asked Stringer to read aloud the paragraphs that Riches is mentioned.

In the paragraphs, Stringer does not mention Riches by name, which Riches said could be a result of wanting to remain private or just that she had forgotten her name.

Winfrey then introduced Riches.

“She just couldn’t stop weeping,” Riches said of Stringer. “We both cried and cried.”

The two women got to catch up after the show and now, they send each other text messages and plan to have phone conversations.

She said she is grateful to have Stringer is her life.

“I’m delighted we reconnected,” Riches said.

Riches said Stringer has promised to come visit Natchez and Monmouth.

“It would be a wonderful thing if she would come,” Riches said.

Riches has read Stringer’s book.

“It’s excellent, it truly is a great book of inspiration and motivation,” Riches said.

Riches said Stringer is a great person.

“She’s beat all odds,” Riches said. “She’s a real inspiration.”

“She’s very kind, warm, loving, a very humble woman, so gracious and down to earth.”