Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday Thinking—Published on Friday

I’ve been noticing talents lately and how much better my life is for people using theirs. I’ve thought about it while reading books, listening to music, and while interacting with creative people. I’ve thought about it while listening to others share their experiences. Frankly, I’ve thought about it a lot because it is everywhere. It is invigorating.

It seems easy to recognize others’ talents and a bit harder to recognize our own. I’m not sure why we hesitate to recognize things we are good at. Well, that’s not true. Yes, I do. I think we often hesitate to say we’re good at things because we don’t want to be a braggart. NOBODY likes a braggart, and . . . well . . . we people generally liked to be liked. However, true humility forces us recognize our talents and gifts so that we can be grateful for them and acknowledge where they came from. To never admit to or recognize our talents would classify us as ingrates. Are not braggarts and ingrates first cousins? And like a braggart, NOBODY likes an ingrate. It’s a fine line identifying those talents, it is.

A few years ago my friend Deb and I took a “Scrapbook in a Day” class from Stacy Julian. Stacy explained how to organize our pictures and execute our plan so that we could have a complete scrapbook, using 200 pictures, finished in a short amount of time. I chose to do my childhood and, following her suggestion, looked through my pictures and discovered there were four different categories that the pictures fell into. There were pictures of me, pictures of my family, pictures of friends, and pictures of events. Based on those pictures I categorized them into these topics:

All by Myself
People I Loved
People I Played With
Things I was Good At

“Things I Was Good At”—pictures of talents that could be captured with a camera. This scrapbook project made me brave the realms of braggart and ingrate and identify some talents. Talents like:

Music: Whenever teachers asked me what my talent was I could always say I played the piano. Though I was the church organist for several years while I was a teenager, I don’t think anyone’s imagination would stretch far enough to say that I was good at it. However, it was an acceptable talent when I needed one in a pinch.

Sports: I found I was athletic—much to my relief. I wanted to be good at sports and so it was a bonus that I was coordinated enough to play them.

Academics: I was not exceptionally smart, but I was an obedient and conscientious student which made up for my lack of natural ability.

Homemaking Skills: I learned to cook and clean by sheer necessity and though I learned sewing in 4-H, I never became adept at it. However, even without sewing skills, I knew how to make a home feel good. I was responsible for a lot of the duties in our home during my high school years because mom was not functioning. I learned how to have supper ready, the house tidy, and music playing quietly in the background to help make people happy. I learned that popping popcorn or baking a pan of brownies helped smooth over a lot of things.

But the talents that couldn’t be captured with a camera have been no less serviceable to me. In fact, they have been very rewarding.

Probably the talent that brought me the most happiness and peace was a desire to be good. I liked going to church. I liked reading the scriptures and saying my prayers. I liked jogging and walking. I liked family night. I liked giving service (though I didn’t particularly care for babysitting the _____ family, they were a contentious passel of kids; however, I did like the feeling when it was over.)

I also liked older people. My best youthful talents were probably used there. I spent a lot of time listening to older people reminiscing. Though my mind often wandered, I learned that if I gave them eye contact and asked questions they felt important. I practiced most on Emma Henstock. She broke her leg when I was twelve and I was asked to stay and care for her. I fixed supper, baked cookies, did her laundry, and cleaned her house. But the most important thing I did was keep her company. Until I graduated from high school, I would often spend nights with her to keep her company while she was convalescing through different illnesses and surgeries . . . and loneliness. Through her, I gained an appreciation for Lawrence Welk and licorice nibs.

Talents. Where would we be without them? In a sniveling black hole of ingrates and braggarts, that’s where. Do tell. Do tell. What talents did you develop as a child and what talents do you appreciate now?


deidra said...

Oh Jane, I love this post and the newsletter.

Sometimes I struggle to identify my talents. I feel like I can do almost anything well enough, but I'm not exceptional at any one thing. It can be a struggle to be a Jack of All Trades.

One talent I learned as a kid is to be content, no matter what. I could amuse myself without much to work with (though good books helped). Thankfully my mom enrolled me in sewing classes so I can read a pattern and get a job done. And talk. I think that's one of my best talents I've been working on since I was quite little. I'm a good talker (working on the listening!).

Emma J said...

I never realized you were a rodeo rider? I loved reading your talents - and wish I'd developed more of the same.

I focused too much on just one and have spent adulthood scrambling to learn some of the other more useful skills.

Becky said...

The photo of you is great! This is a great topic for your blog and your newsletter. I've always struggled to keep that balance...I feel like the Lord has blessed me with so much...often I feel like the man in the Bible who was given 5 talents and had the burden of doubling it to 10. It's an interesting tightrope to be sure I am using my talents to their fullest and yet not come across as smug, self-righteous, proud, or boastful....especially around women (men aren't as sensitive).

Anyway, some of my favorite talents of mine are optimism, faith, a burning desire to keep the commandments to the fullest, time managament, a good mind, and some creative skills.

Marie said...

You are indeed a talented lady.

(And neither a braggart nor an ingrate)

Ande Payne said...

Hey Mamma,

I love your talents. And you. Thanks for sharing them. They make my life a whole lot better.

I love you.

Lori said...

You have so many talents that list would be endless. I feel grateful to know a talented woman like you. You make me want to be better.

Rachel said...

Aunt Jane, you left out my favorite of ALL your talents!! You are so good at making people feel loved and appreciated! When I come to visit, you are always ecstatic in your welcoming! (and that is a talent that can be captured on camera) It makes me feel so loved! I love you!

michelle said...

Jane, I really love this post. So much, in fact, I might want to link to it on my blog and do a post about talents of my own.

"a sniveling black hole of ingrates and braggarts," that put a big smile on my face. I'm glad we don't have to live there!

Funny, I could never do sports. At all. But I was coordinated enough to dance and cheer...?

I think your talents are supremely useful, Jane.