Nice smile. Good friend. Fun to be with. These were always the pathetic answers I managed to jot down after racking my brain for long, painful minutes in my seminary and young women’s lessons about talents.
I always envied those who showed obvious talent in the performing and visual arts, sports, etc. Those talents were so easy to point to. Becky is a wonderful musician. Bill can sing. Brittany can draw. Bob is amazing at basketball. So as the class discussions invariably turned to “How can we develop our talents? How can we share our talents?” Bill and Becky knew exactly what to scribble down and share with the class.
Me, on the other hand, well I would fumble terribly as I tried to awkwardly smile with teeth and then to word, “practice being a good friend” without it sounding totally lame and lackluster.
And while I’m still not a great artist or musician and my alto is thin and forgettable, as I grow older, I am finding more and more joy in recognizing and sharing my, for lack of a better word, “mediocre” talents.
Why? Because I’m learning from the best. For example, I have neighbors who know it’s their talent to be good neighbors. So they organize block parties, rake their neighbors’ leaves, take out their trashcans and chat by the mailboxes.
I have friends who have a knack for making time. I know they are some of the busiest people in the world, but what I admire about them most is that they never say they are the busiest people in the world. They make time to help out, listen, walk and talk, whatever you need.
I know others who have a gift for being generous. Some are generous with time, others with money, still others with love, patience and praise. I stand in awe when I see others practice mental toughness and psychological strength to overcome adversity. I’d be a fool to think all these talents came naturally and didn’t require practice, practice, practice.
Others around me educate themselves with very specific talents in varying fields of expertise and they readily share their knowledge with others. Some dish out legal advice, others medical opinions, one dear neighbor, who is an esthetician, gives a free pedicure to friends during their last trimester of pregnancy.
I don’t know if at age sixteen I would’ve thought “making someone else’s feet beautiful” was a worthy talent to share out loud in class, but twenty years later? I’d write it down in all caps, underline it twice and be the first to raise my hand. (I can’t tell you how much my purple ankles appreciated that pedicure.)
The truth is, the artists and the athletes do have something wonderful to offer, but lately it’s the less-easy-to-point-to talents that impress me the most. The key is in the sharing. It’s enough to make me want to practice, practice, practice my “nice smile.”
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