When Child was in grade 1, we were preparing for his First Holy Communion. His class went on a day-long retreat, and I volunteered. They thought about the day, we made wooden bead rosaries and we reflected on how the Eucharist is a gift. We did an activity where we took a skein of yarn and the person who was holding it said “I share my gifts by [insert way the child shares their gifts/skills with their friends/family/community]”. Then the kid would pass the yarn across the circle to someone else. Eventually, there was a spiderweb of yarn and the activity leader would say something poignant about how our gifts collectively make our community stronger. Then, the activity leader would cut through the yarn so that each kid got a bit of the web, with the understanding that together they are more than the sum of their parts.
I’ve done that activity in high school with drama club cast/crew. The director/producer would do it so that everyone understood that none of us could make that show go without the talents of the other people in that web. Everyone brought their gifts to the production and together we did something fantastic.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at using my talents to the benefit of many groups. I had some pretty great people share their talents to help me become successful in various ways, and I’m glad to be able to pay that forward whenever I can. My ability to write compelling letters helped secure benefactors for the cadet corps I used to work with. My wordsmithing helped build bridges between our work team and other teams. I’ve helped friends apply for jobs and education grants. Even at that grade 1 retreat, I said that my words were my gift.
Sometimes, though, people don’t realize what a gift they are to others. Recently, Child decided that he wanted to build a media repository computer. We discussed it and he priced out the parts he wanted to use to build it. He checked the list with someone who’s done what he wanted to do. He sent me the list, and the mountain of Amazon Prime boxes were waiting for him when he got home for spring break. Except it did not go as planned. He got more and more frustrated. I put a call out to friends who are the right calibre of nerd-dom to see if they could help him. A few stepped up to provide guidance. I also put a message on an internal message board at work explaining the predicament, and a dozen people I don’t know gave me suggestions to offer him. One has offered to sit with him and his box of parts to mentor him through the build. These are people who know something that the Casa di Swears does not know, and they are willing (and even enthusiastic) to help. Maybe they know that this is their gift in the same way as I know what my gifts are. Maybe they empathize with the frustration of not knowing what you don’t know. Maybe they”re just happy to toss some troubleshooting suggestions over the wall. Either way, we’re going to get Child out of this hole and get him a successful media box because of the gifts of my co-workers.
Sometimes, the gift is even more subtle. Maybe the compliment that I give to a complete stranger is the thing they need to help calm their nerves before a job interview. Maybe holding open a door at the drug store is the comfort someone needs who is worried about a sick child. I read a story years ago on the Elephant Journal site about a woman who was in a very low place. After trying unsuccessfully to improve her lot, she felt broken. I think we can all relate to that. We’ve all been that person at some point in our lives. She was walking through a busy market and suddenly she felt a child take her hand. The boy mistakenly thought she was his mother. A simple enough mistake on the part of the boy, but his gesture brought the woman back from the brink.
During Lent may I be aware that what one person doesn’t regard as a big deal can reallyeally be a gift to another. This Lent, may I understand that my random actions can make a difference to someone in random states of need. This Lent, may I also be aware of how my gifts contribute to the web of good things for people in my community, and may I be grateful when others freely share their gifts with me.