By Catherine Hedge
One of the greatest elements of being a significant part of children’s lives is that you get to watch them open “gifts.” Not new plastic whiz-bangs from the latest video game, pop band paraphernalia, or pajamas from Grandma… I mean the gifts that are the very essence of an individual.
When you spend creative time with a child, you may witness that indelible moment when he or she uncovers a true talent or passion. You can see it happening. Perhaps you are playing together, dancing, doing schoolwork, running laps, plinking on the piano, spotting an owl, or digging in the dirt. There are a million possibilities. But at the crucial instant of discovery, the child stops, frozen, and silent. Sometimes he’ll hold his breath or she will gasp. All his or her concentration focuses on the realization, “Hey! I’m really good at this!”
After that they will return to their normal selves and giggle, run around crazily, or chase the dog. However, in the hours and days that follow, the repetition begins. A hundred times you’ll get asked to throw the Frisbee. Every night for weeks, you’ll have to clear the crayons off of the dinner table. You’ll hear them read Pat The Bunny until the fur is rubbed off. And you’ll grind your teeth and think, If I hear Fur Elise one…more…time!
But if the child in your life is lucky, you’ll be patient because he or she is taking the first step towards becoming unique.
Like gathering a bouquet of wildflowers, we collect pieces of evidence that we can think, sing, draw, dance, run, observe, invent, entertain, write, act, cook, remember, or imagine. Then, we are no longer just one of seven billion others crawling across this planet. We feel we are someone special because there is something we can do and do well.
When we were kids, my mom was always volunteering the five of us for some performance. She was usually the president of a club. When the Christmas show came around, she’d put us to work. Being naturally shy, I hated it, but Mom would always say, “You have to because you have a God-given talent.” She made us feel that having an ability also meant having responsibility.
Even though I hid behind my cardboard pea pod in the Thanksgiving pageant and my little sister balleted around as an adorable pea, I still remember my feeling of satisfaction…perhaps relief…when it was done. Yes, my mother forced me into it, but I made it happen. Me with my front teeth missing, rag-curled hair, and freckles…I was the one who walked up on stage and said my lines. Though it was not my passion or future, it was one building block of me. I could be in front of others without collapsing. So, I guess, after all, I have to thank Mom and the Moose Lodge for my happy career teaching middle schoolers. Thanks, Mom.
So…when you’re worried about shopping for that perfect gift, know that you already have it. It’s you. With your knowledge, curiosity, time, and patience, maybe you’ll be the one to see that first painting, hear the first song, or find that first fossil with the ones who create our future.