Saturday, July 7, 2012

The gift of a gift not given

Do you have a gift for which you can't find a purpose? I have a few of them. I can quack like Donald Duck. I can learn languages easily, particularly German and Spanish, but I am too self conscious to actually speak them when I meet a native speaker. And I remember music. You know how some people remember the first line of a song, then hum the rest? I keep on going when I start singing an old Disney song with friends, but then they trail off, and I'm dangling with my cracking voice, singing a song my vocal chords can't keep up with.

It is a blessing, I think, to have these random gifts without explanation. It shows us the kind of potential we have: so much so that we don't even need to have a purpose for everything we do. I have done nothing much to foster or develop these abilities: they are just there. We were created in such a way that there is room for skills to exist purely for giggles, interest, or even a larger purpose that may or may not be revealed to us.

There is another important sort of gift I've noticed. It's the gift we aren't given. My mind is not the sort that can remember how to do a simple thing like read and play music or remember numbers. When I meet someone who is clearly especially abled in this arena, I am dazzled by their gift, partially because it so incredibly not mine.

My friend had a graduation party for her exchange student and one of his friends was there. He sat down to play elaborate and beautiful songs from memory. You could see the feeling in his fingers and the way he sat in such a relaxed way at the bench. How many years of lessons had he had? "Oh, just a couple." Because I have the seemingly purposeless ability to remember and tune into music, the experience of his gift was very meaningful to me.

Then, a few Sundays ago, a guest pianist at church played mesmerizing music, all from memory. She had been an orphan and her brain had been labeled damaged. She was adopted and brought to our country, and was severely delayed in many ways. But out of that brokenness emerged a kind of genius that stops people in their monotonous thoughts. We are compeled to marvel instead at the design of the human mind. Her ability inspired and encouraged me.

Two years ago I was inspired to run. I loved it. I was actually kind of good at it. It was a way for me to focus on nothing but the beauty of the world around me, the wonder of the body I lived in and the Creator who made all of it. I could push my body beyond the arbitrary limits my mind had set: 3 miles...6 miles...9 miles...13.1. Books about marathon running, then ultramarathons began to stack up on my bedside table. I was officially hooked. It felt like I had found a gift and was running with it. (literally!) 

Then, after my second half marathon, I was injured and sustained an atrophied muscle in my leg that puts strain on my achilles tendon and plantar fascia in my foot. It felt like a death sentence. So now I don't run. It takes about a half hour of stretching to feel ready to run, and I don't have the patience for it, nor do I feel like the selfishness of enjoying a good run should make me willing to risk a ruptured tendon that will disable me.

So the ability to run is a gift I don't know why I had for a short time, but it was beautiful. Having been a runner, I am able now to encourage new runners in specific and helpful ways. My husband, an exercise induced asthmatic, is now running 5 days a week. This was something unheard of in the days when I was running. He wants me to try to run, so he perseveres. He is probably in better cardiovascular shape than me and he is inspiring our children. My obsessed period of running was a lone act, but my period of bench sitting has allowed my family to step forward. Maybe someday I'll run again, but if I do, it'll be with my family by my side.

Are you frustrated by your inability to do some things, no matter how much you may love them? Maybe it's actually a gift in disguise, helping you to truly appreciate the world around you and the talents that other people have that you may not. Do you have a gift that you cannot find a purpose for? I'll bet there is one, so don't hide that gift. Share it. You may be inspiring someone more than you know, because your seemingly insignificant gift may be the perfect match to one they have.


  1. I love this post. I'm not sure what my gifts are, that I have no use for but, I'm sure they're in there somewhere. Sometimes it's hard to recognize our own gifts. I think it's awesome that your hubby had been running!

  2. You definitely have a gift for writing, Angie! I love your blog.

  3. I, also, can quack like a duck, learn languages and remember music!

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I recently learned about my learning styles, and this really helped me to understand some of my more random, seemingly purposeless interests. Because I take in information a bit differently than I output information, the "taking in" part seems extraneous... but it's not!
    Probably for you, your gravitation toward language and music has to do with a certain way that you process and understand the world but isn't necessarily the way that you communicate to the world.

    I don't know if that makes sense.
    I think you and I are quite similar!! :)

  4. I just might be able to keep up with you on Disney songs! Angela and I used to rehearse the songs over and over again while riding the bus. We actually would do the entire movies from start to finish, dialog and songs at least. Since we were stuck in our seats. :) LOVE this post!

  5. Peggy, that totally makes sense to me. I had never looked at it that way before. I agree that we are quite a lot alike. Maybe I will get to visit with you next time you come over this way. :)
    Josie, I think we need to sing ALL of the little mermaid songs together. I haven't done that in a very long time. And monica...thanks!


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