This gift is not wrapped in a box.
It is graduation time once again in our communities. Prom, ceremonies and festive gatherings mark the occasion. The giving of gifts is an important part of the graduation ritual.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our young people is a sense of their own giftedness. This gift is not wrapped in a box and presented on a given day. It is incubated over time and requires attentive nurturing.
I had the privilege of preparing a group of young people for Confirmation. For readers unfamiliar with Confirmation, it is a Christian's public profession of faith. In some traditions, it is a rite that calls down the Holy Spirit onto the individual to empower them to live their faith.
To live one's faith means, in part, to serve. In order to serve, we need to be aware of our talents and gifts. So, I had asked the students to list their gifts and describe how they could use those gifts to help others.
Some of the students struggled with the task. Slumped over, looking somewhat dejected, these students did not consider themselves gifted.
When I pointed out to one student his gifts of energy and cheerfulness, he looked at me incredulously. When I asked how he could use those gifts to help someone else, he smiled and said he could cheer someone up, but mostly his gifts just annoyed people. We both laughed, enjoying his sense of humour, another gift. Another student sat staring at a blank page. He was certain he missed out when God handed out gifts. His eyes sparkled and a smile crossed his face when I mentioned his intelligence and sensitivity. A third student, in the same unhappy predicament, was startled to learn that two of his gifts were generosity and knowledge.
How many of us share a similar sense of uncertainty about our selves? Are we aware of our giftedness? Do we admire the talents of others, but lack insight into our own? Do we fail to appreciate the things that make us special?
Each of us is wonderfully created. We each possess a unique combination of traits, attributes and talents that equips us to live with meaning and purpose. As long as we keep our egos in check, an awareness of our giftedness enables us to move beyond our self and empowers us for service. Saint Paul teaches that there are a variety of gifts. All are from God and God's spirit activates them in us for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). One gift is not better than another; there is no scale of one to 10 for the ranking of our abilities. Perhaps I was nave to expect young teens to appreciate their giftedness. Their gifts are in the incubation stage. Our graduates are a little further along in their journey of self-discovery. As they leave high school to explore new avenues, let us continue to affirm in them their uniqueness. Let us encourage and support the development of their talents. And, as adults, let us be mindful of our own gifts and celebrate them through service to others.