Yes You Can (probably)

At the weekend I found myself listening to someone talking about a subject which I have had many conversations and thoughts over and has never been boring to me because of its importance. The subject was gifts; not, as perhaps is becoming more and more topical as Christmas bears down upon us, gifts in the sense of presents, but the gifts that individuals have. Or their talents and skills, whatever words you would like to use.
The fact is that everyone is gifted in some way or another. One of the best ways to get me mildly annoyed is to moan about being ‘useless’ or rubbish about not having anything to contribute. Particularly annoying is that I sometimes get that from young people, where the power locked up in them is so obvious to me I want to get a magic mirror to see if I can persuade them to see what I can see in front of me – unlimited potential for change and improving the world around them for the better, if they can be bothered and have the belief that nothing is impossible (albeit some things highly improbable, but worth a go surely?).
Why do people have such low opinions of what they can contribute?
Certainly sometimes it is hard to understand what you can bring to the party. For many years I struggled with it myself. It never seemed to me that I possessed anything that seemed to be the mark of the gifted. I was never very good at anything physical, so sports were out. My artwork far surpassed the worst extremes of abstract, which would have been fine if I had been aiming for abstract but not great when you were supposed to be drawing a horse. I seem to have some kind of inherent blindness when trying to read music and I failed at the recorder, which still keeps me away from any form of musical instrument to this day – my ukulele lies sadly unused because I still think that it is fairly pointless me even trying. In academic work; well, that wasn’t so bad. But there were always people brighter than I was. No one actually is happy being third best.
The last ten years things have changed a little for me, through a mixture of affirmation from the Lovely Wife and others and from a more clinical look (through things like the Gallup Strength Finders programme). My big revelation was to accept that there were a lot of people who are more obviously talented than I am. But they do not always see it and/or they lack the confidence to push those talents to a point where they are starting to see just what they may be able to achieve. I can help. I want to help. I’m an encourager, sometimes a catalyst, sometimes just extra fuel for an engine already running. I do not have to achieve anything myself, my contentment can come from having a tiny part in helping others succeed.
I’m reminded a little of one of the few successful showbiz marriages. No one would doubt that Dame Judi Dench has certainly been a success in her career as an actor. For many years she was married to Michael Williams, another actor, until his death some years ago now. Rarely do two actors manage to hold things together but by all accounts their relationship was close and loving right up until Williams died. What struck me as the most interesting part of this was in an interview I remember reading where he was asked if he resented in any way that his own career was eclipsed by that of his wife. He was clear; not at all. It was not just that he did not resent it, but that he felt that his role in supporting her meant that he also got the thrill from her ever increasing profile. Her success, her happiness was mirrored in him. I love that. For me, the ability to touch and encourage lives is a great blessing, and I understand the risks – sometimes you might encourage and find that in fact the path you’ve just pushed them down doesn’t work… But if you take that attitude nothing will ever be achieved. Together, using the gifts we all have we can achieve anything and it is one of the few things that gives me hope for the future.