Traffic merged to one lane before me, polite Iowa drivers taking their turns to cross the overpass, single file. As we crossed, I noted the license plate of the car in front of me.
I solve puzzles, sometimes hard ones, but this one was easy. “Use your gift.”
It got me thinking about gifts generally, and how we use them. Everyone knows anecdotes about a mother, aunt, or grandma who would receive presents — table linens, bath towels, cologne — and put them away. The gift was “too nice” to use. Maybe you’ve done it yourself. Did you get china as a wedding present? Do you use it?
Why do we keep our best gifts hidden away? There could be a lot of different reasons. Fear might be the big one. Fear that we don’t deserve such a gift, fear that someone might think we’re showing off, fear that we don’t know how to use it or display it, or that it doesn’t fit in with our other “stuff,” fear that we might ruin it…
Since the word has a lot of different connotations, it’s probably worth a moment to define “gift.” A gift is something given (received), not earned or in exchange for something else, regardless of source. So it might be a tangible item given to celebrate a special occasion. Or it may be genetically-endowed traits, or beneficial circumstances over which we have no control. You can come up with your own examples.
It’s easy to think of gifts like mathematical prowess, or musical genius. When comparing to that, a person might think they have no gifts. But being “gifted” with capabilities or talents has a broad range of possibilities. This item by Duke University explains.
When parents think of their children as gifted, they usually think of high IQ scores, high SATs, high ACTs, high grades, and the like. But research shows that there is much more to giftedness than the academic ability and achievement that U.S. society values. Conventional tests emphasize memory and analytic skill.
At least two other kinds of skill, however, are important to success in life: creativity and practical know-how.
In other words, there are people gifted with creative abilities, and there are people who are gifted with the ability to get things done. Obviously these groups overlap. And of course there are other kinds of talent, as well, including physical and emotional ones. And for purposes of education, the definition of “gifted” focuses on those with an unusual degree of the talent or ability. But we all have areas of strength that are natural to us, not developed by force of will.
Use your gift.
What gifts do you have? Start with tangible ones, the ones you’ve never used. I’ll go first… I have — STILL have — a set of Shiva paintsticks I’ve never used. And a few other textile items, things I asked for and haven’t touched. And why haven’t I used them? At the beginning it was because of intimidation, fear. At this point, it’s more because I haven’t gotten around to it. And you?
What about intangible gifts? And broaden that to include hard-fought talents and skills. We aren’t all naturally diplomatic, but that is a skill that can be developed. Most of us weren’t born able to do free-motion quilting, visualizing the positive and negative spaces and coordinating to never get trapped by our own stitches. But again, that’s a skill that can be developed. It is a gift that the skill can be developed…
So what are you good at? Do you use those gifts fully? Do you share them with others? If not, why not?
And what other gifts have you received? Do you acknowledge them completely by enjoying them, or do you push them or hide them away?
There are so many blessings in my life, so many aspects I take for granted because they just are. One thing I try to never take for granted is the unconditional love of my husband Jim. This may well be my biggest gift ever. And I easily add to the list my children and grandchildren and bigger family. And yes, I could go on…
Also, I have the gift of opportunity. My life allows and my husband encourages immersion in my craft of quilting, as well as that of writing.
And I have gifts of capability. I quilt, I design, I teach, I write. I learn all of these things by doing. I do because I must, as I must breathe. And I do, both to conquer the fear, and because the fear abates as I try more things.
Today is the first anniversary of Catbird Quilt Studio. I came to this blog through a long crazy route I wouldn’t recommend for anyone! Getting to that point a year ago, and since then, I’ve had the support of my husband and a small group of very special friends, holding my hand through the craziness. Their friendship is indeed a gift.
This blog and Our View From Iowa both give me a vehicle to express my thoughts with you. I thank you for reading them, for offering that gift to me.
In addition, every day I am inspired, taught, and amused by other bloggers. Their writing and sharing is a gift, as well.
Use your gift.
I pledge to continue exploring my gifts, trying to be the better me, trying to overcome the fears that somehow I’m not good enough. I pledge to be mindful of the blessings in life, and to express gratitude when I can. And I pledge to try those Shiva paintsticks.
What about you? Do you use your gifts fully? Will you eat your meals off the good china, at least now and then?
Will you focus on today rather than fear for tomorrow? I’ll finish with this quote from Bil Keane, creator of the long-running comic strip The Family Circus. He said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.“