So they put me in charge of the church Christmas Party. (They being small bitter people who take pleasure in watching a hapless woman run around madly, looking for her hap.)
Some clear reasons I should not be in charge of the church Christmas Party:
- I have no talent for organization.
- I have no talent for decorating.
- I have no talent for writing important things in my planner, and even when I do
- I have no talent for remembering where I left my planner. Ever.
Some clear reasons I should attend the church Christmas Party, rather than be in charge of it:
- I have a great talent for talking (to myself or others; it doesn’t really matter.)
- I have a great talent for eating good food other people bring.
- I have a great talent for oohing and aahing over decorations other people made.
- I have a great talent for saying “Well done!” on a job other people did. (I figure this takes about as much talent as doing the job itself.)
As you can see, I’m a much better party-goer than party-planner. In fact, I like to think that in attending someone else’s bash, I’m sharing my aforementioned talents with them. (And just because I usually hear about these parties after they’re over does not mean the hostess doesn’t want me there; I’m probably just not getting the event notices on facebook or something. Just so we’re clear, people: I’m home, I’m available, and I’m a supercool guest. Where is the love?)
The problem is that being a (freaking) awesome party guest doesn’t make me an awesome party planner. And in all seriousness, the above list of talents I lack are all ones I’ve spent a lifetime desperately wishing I had (especially the one about finding my planner.) I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over the years bemoaning My Lack of Talents. Things that look so effortless for other women–especially all things organizational–seem to have bypassed my brain circuit at birth. Throughout my life, I’ve been on a constant quest to “Get Organized!” and I’m a whiz at making lists, but how do I write “Don’t Lose This List” on my list? (‘Cause see, then I lose the list and I can’t refer to the the list to tell me not to lose the list.) You see the tangled web I weave.
I try not to get down about the talents I lack; I know we’ve each been given certain gifts. But the hard truth is, what I really want is to have your gifts and my gifts. Is that so much to ask? Because no matter what talents I have, yours will always seem better. And more eye-catching. And more praiseworthy. I know I shouldn’t covet my neighbors looks or money, but what about coveting her talents? Because believe me, I’ve coveted yours. (Don’t tell anyone. It’s kind of pathetic.)
I have a beautiful friend who makes beautiful quilts. She has a brilliant eye for color and design, and her tactical skills match her aesthetic sensibilities. Every quilt she crafts is its own work of art. She generously shares this gift with others, and I have been the lucky recipient of two such gems when I had my last two babies. Though I opened each of these lovingly-made gifts with genuine gratitude and admiration, somewhere beneath my “thank you so much!” lay a teeny, tiny (huge) puddle of envy. Her gift is so much better than mine. Now the outfit I bought for her baby looks totally lame. Why didn’t I ever learn to quilt? Great. Just one more thing I can’t do. As always, the Brat inside of me managed to take someone else’s accomplishment and make it all about me. It’s not fair, says the Brat. No fair!
My covetousness isn’t limited to quilts. I have likely wished myself to be as brilliant and musical and athletic and organized and spiritual and popular and praised and kind and optimistic as you, not to mention as nurturing and loving a mother. I have likely (forgive me, faithfuls) complimented you on these talents while secretly sulking that they weren’t my own. I have likely sized up your abilities with my inabilities and thought: No fair! Because, really–why should you be good at something that I’m not?
These dismal thoughts began racing through my mind as the kind gentlemen asked if I’d be willing to head up the church Christmas Party. I heard myself say “yes,” while inside I thought “No! I don’t have the talents for this, so I shouldn’t have to do it. It’s not fair!” And then, like water for chocolate, he said something that gave me pause. He said, “Of course, you’ll have a committee.”
“Yes, a committee of people to help you. You can have as many people on it as you want.”
I went home and chewed on this awhile, and I must tell you, my friends, that as the week wore one, I had something of a paradigm shift (do people still use that Stephen Covey term?) Ruminating over everything this assignment would entail, I gradually quit thinking about myself (poor me–no fair!) and more about who could help me get this thing done. And I began to feel grateful–not jealous–that other people had talents I didn’t, because now I could hit them up to do things I couldn’t do. Other people’s talents–the very ones I grumbled about not being my own–might not have to slight or diminish me. In fact, they just might help me.
See, if I could draw and paint and cook and sing and lead the choir and decorate the gym like a stable in Bethlehem, I’d have to do all of that by myself, because I’d be Good At Everything. I’d be The Most Talented. I’d be The Winner. But I’d also have to do it all by myself, and I’d be really, really tired. (Not to mention, really, really annoying.) And if we all could quilt like my friend, who would she give her quilts to? If every person in the world quilted or sang or played badminton like a pro, who would get the pleasure of receiving those gifts? Who would get to sink their cheeks gratefully into the fluffy cotton batting, or cry at the end of the concert, or cheer in the stands, wild with excitement over the state badminton finals? (That last one was a stretch. Admitted.) It wouldn’t be fun for anyone, because the fun of having a talent is sharing it, and the fun of not having a talent is having it shared with you.
Were I to spend an entire day trying to crochet a pair of booties for a new baby in the family, it would be an exercise in frustration and a waste of precious time, because I would be trying to show my love in another person’s way. But if someone with a talent for crocheting spent the day making those same booties, not a minute of it would be wasted. She would be sharing her unique talent–showing love in her own way. Her gift would be authentic, while mine would be insincere–done only for the finished product, not the gratifying process.
And the truth is, if I had really wanted to crochet –or do calligraphy or play tennis or be ultraorganized–I would have made the effort to learn. But I never learned to do those things because, deep down, I never really wanted to. And I think that’s an important thing to remember about our talents: perhaps an interest is planted in us more deeply than an ability. So why should we berate ourselves for developing the inherent interests we have and bypassing the ones we don’t? I have never had an interest in sewing, but I love and admire that skill in others. I have always had an interest in writing, but most people I know would rather put a pez dispenser up their nose than sit alone at a computer for four hours at a stretch; they have better things to do with their precious time. Should I feel bad that I don’t sew? Should they feel bad that they don’t write? I think we should all stop feeling bad, period.
And instead, I think we should all remember the true meaning of my-church-Christmas-Party-ephiphany, keeping it in our hearts all the year long. It goes something like this:
Other People’s Extraordinary Talents Will Always Mean Less Work For You and Me!
That will be crosstitched on a pillow in my house someday. Just as soon as I learn to crosstitch.