Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Talents--what are they, really?

Recent discussions with friends got me thinking on the subject of talents--we've probably all heard it before but I think, as women especially, we need reminders.

The scriptures tell us that we are all blessed with talents, diverse and varied, and we are expected to do something with them. A few years ago, I was involved in my ward's Enrichment Night celebration of talents. There were a wide array of us, sharing the things we'd accomplished and basking in the glow. We had a combination of writers, artists and composers.

There was a problem.

I heard later that one of the sisters told her husband she'd never attend another meeting like that one because she came away feeling like such a loser. According to her own assessment, she couldn't write, draw, paint or compose music. Ergo, no talent.

This couldn't be farther from the truth.

Not all talents produce a physical, tangible product. A loving Father has blessed us with talents both outwardly impressive and quietly crucial. Drawing on experiences of women I know, I'm going to show you what I mean.

Woman "A" is a stay-at-home mom with three beautiful kids. She's younger than I am and really has her stuff together. She has a testimony but knows how to relate in the "world," to find joy in the world. Her children are smart, the house is amazingly decorated, she cans food, knits beautifully (and learned only last year!) and gives attention to her callings while still maintaining an awesome homefront. She does these things on a shoestring budget as her husband finishes grad school. She knows who she is and is comfortable in her own skin. She's also incredibly funny and sarcastic. This makes me love her even more.

Woman "B" is dependable, gracious, lovely and generous to a fault. She cares for others despite her own illnesses. She volunteers, serves, takes care of family, delivers beautiful fireside messages, writes roadshows, and often crashes when it's all said and done because her body often can't keep up with her spirit. Now granted, she is a writer and that's one of those talents we're not discussing here, but take away the writing piece and she's still one of the most amazing people I know.

Woman "C" is one of the most beautiful and glamorous people I know in real life. She has four gorgeous kids and a gorgeously decorated home. She is put together at all times, in all things and in all places. Her attention to detail is second to none and her taste is impeccable. She is also one of the most genuinely nice people I know. I mean NICE. The first time I met her she was new in the ward and came to visit teach me with her companion. I made a snap judgment upon first clapping eyes on her, only to have it dissolve within the first five minutes of conversation. I've known her for years and that has never changed. She is genuine, classy, smart, funny and so very kind. She is more beautiful on the inside, even, that trust me, that's saying something.

Woman "D" has five children and she and her husband want one more. She is runs a home of delightfully chaotic organization and is an awesome mom. She plays with her kids, she is calm about spills, she loves her current role and is doing a darn good job with it. Having so many children and running an efficient house are skill sets that I do not possess. I have only three children, two of which are nearly adults, and I still can't find socks or a room in my house that's consistently tidy and organized.

I could go on with women "E" through "Z," but I hope you see where I'm going with this. Kindness is a talent. Organizational skills are a talent. Amazing church and community service, that is a talent. As are the following: compassion, dedication, dependability, charity, a strong work ethic, humble spirituality, seeking for and attaining knowledge, the ability to make others smile, a good grasp of life's priorities, etc.

Those talents that aren't so easily visible in terms of outward appearance are those I refer to as "quietly crucial." They are the crux of life, for they almost always mean some sort of service to others, whether in the community or within the walls of our own homes. Love is usually the root motivator, and love is pure.

Now. Let's say you've always wanted to be a photographer. Or to learn to sew. Or write poetry or your life story. Your life story in poem form. Just because you didn't leave the womb as an expert in these areas, does that mean you shouldn't try? I believe that we should spend a lifetime examining and reaching for talents we may not even know we have. We should do what we can to learn about the topic and then not be afraid to try it.

Woman "A" I mentioned above learned to knit last year. She is amazingly good at it. And we have another friend who is THAT MUCH MORE amazingly good at it, and she also just learned how to knit last year. So let's say we have me, we'll call me "good." We'll call Woman "A" "better," and we'll call Amazing Knitting Prodigy Woman "best." Does this mean I don't have a talent for knitting. No. What it means is that if I want to continue to grow and develop this talent, I must work at it. Just because my talent doesn't have me at the top of that particular game doesn't mean I don't have the talent for it.

Talents take work. With the possible exception of Mozart, I've not heard of anyone whose talents didn't require practice and honing. And truthfully, Mozart certainly progressed throughout his life--he didn't write Eine Kleine Nachtmusik at the age of 8. (Although he did write other music that I can't begin to replicate at the age of 8. Let's not talk about him anymore.)

In the New Testament we find the Parable of the Talents. One man did amazing things with his, the second man did good things with his, and the third man buried his talent. Talents, in this story, refer to currency, but the point is the same. If we bury it, it stays as it is and is of benefit to nobody--not family or friends, and not ourselves. Certainly not to our Father, who gave us those talents in the first place.

I have homework for you. Your job tonight (or tomorrow night, or anytime this week you have a few free minutes, but for sure before Sunday) is to make a list of your talents. I'm not talking about the ones that produce something tangible. First you start with you, and you list the things you ARE. Then continue the list and write down those things you produce. Maybe you're really good at canning or gardening. Maybe you can put together an awesome scrapbook. Maybe you read the newspaper front to back each day and can tell me exactly what's going on in Libya. Perhaps you know how to sew aprons on a machine. Perhaps you can give one heck of a presentation to your boss and colleagues, with or without the Powerpoint. Maybe you're the one in the office who remembers everybody's birthdays or notices when someone is down and you buy them an African Violet. Unless it's a man who's down...you buy him a chocolate doughnut.

You keep this list in your journal, and if you don't have a journal, you grab a notebook or staple some computer paper together and start one. And perhaps on the other side of this list, you will write down a few things you'd like to do, a few talents you'd like to grow. We may have talents buried that need digging up.

Grab a shovel!


Nicole said...

best post ever!! This was my biggest complaint about Time Out for Women this year. It was all about BECOMING who were were meant to be. In a short video clip they portrayed several women who developed their talents in art, writing, baking etc. All of these women had likewise developed these talents into revenue earning endeavors.

we are not all going to become that.

Most of us are going to become great moms, friends, listeners, servants of the Lord, and so on and so forth.

It made me so mad I want to write a book about it now :)

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Write that book! I will buy the first copy. Love you. :)

TRIBE'S said...

I love this!!!!

Jewels said...

Girl...You CAN write. This was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for reminding us how important we all are.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Thanks, Lydia and Jewels. Love you both and so glad you're in my life!!

Youngbergs said...

Oh, so true and very well-written. You have such a way of putting thoughts into words, Nancy.

Nancy Campbell Allen said...

Thank you, Sarah! Love you, cousin.