“The old year is put to bed, one’s business is finished, and the harvest of spiritual maturity is reaped as wisdom and forgiveness.” ~ Joan Borysenko
May we end 2015 with a sense of completion and gratitude for learnings.
May we look to 2016 with a sense of promise, with hope, and with a readiness to heal, learn, and grow further in love, in wisdom, in kindness.
And may we listen with care to the callings in our hearts. How are we to contribute our time and talent in ways that contribute to a better world and bring joy to us?
Wishing you great leaps forward,
A week ago, Suffield High School Principal Donna Hayward in Suffield, Connecticut delivered a commencement address that was inspired by The Twelve Gifts of Birth. I’m sharing it here because I believe Ms. Hayward’s message of hope and courage is for all of us. Thank you, Donna, for permission to post your speech along with your photo. I hope to meet you someday, new friend! And thank you, dear reader. As always, I would love to hear your comments.
Class of 2014, you are just minutes from receiving your high school diploma. Your parents are wondering how you got here so fast, as it seems such a short time ago that you were born. Just a few years ago, you took your first steps, spoke your first words, got on the school bus kindergarten bound, learned to ride a bike. This is a natural time for your parents to reflect on the last 18 or so years and for us, your teachers, to reflect on whatever role we have played in your upbringing. As it turns out, teaching and parenting are closely related.
When my daughter was born, we received the usual tidal wave of gifts – blankets, cute little outfits, and baby gear of all kinds. One gift, in particular, though stood out as it arrived without a note or tag from the sender to indicate who had given it. One day, it simply arrived in my mailbox – its message clear – but to this day I don’t know who sent it. It was a book entitled, The Twelve Gifts of Birth, by Charlene Costanzo and it details the gifts or qualities bestowed upon each of you upon your birth as a human. “Royal dignity was yours from the day you were born,” the book begins – and on that day and on a day such as this all parents and teachers hope their children know these gifts. My role today is to remind you that you do all have them and to implore you to use them consciously and with purpose from this day forward.
The first gift is Hope and each of you were born with it. Continue reading
During an overnight camp stay at Grayton Beach State Park in Florida’s Panhandle, my husband, Frank, and I met researcher, Jeff.
Frank, Jeff, and I were waiting to use the one outdoor public telephone. Although we had cell phones, no signal was available at that location. It was 1999. Many of us still used public telephones when traveling.
As we waited, we learned that Jeff was camping there for several weeks to study the Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse.
Beach mouse? I didn’t know there were mice on beaches. It makes sense though. I suppose mice are pretty much everywhere, but I had never thought about that. Up until meeting Jeff, I had only pictured beaches with sand, shells, gulls, terns, crabs, jellyfish… shore creatures.
Jeff’s enthusiasm and caring for those beach mice was so powerful that my husband and I almost got up at 4:00 AM the next morning to join Jeff on the beach and observe the little creatures, as we had been invited to do so. I even set the clock’s alarm in our RV. But, when it went off, sleep was more appealing than looking for mice with Jeff.
Before leaving that beautiful state park, we did get to see a few Choctawhatchee Beach Mice at Jeff’s campsite and to learn more both about the mice and about Jeff.
Jeff had left a lucrative job working on oil platforms to follow his heart’s desire. Even though it would require an investment of time and money and result in a career that paid less money, Jeff chose to go to undergraduate and graduate school so that he could study endangered species and work to protect them. Jeff loved nature and realized that he wanted to use his time and talent in a way that would respect and care for the environment.
Wow. Jeff, wherever you are all these years later, you are one of my touchstones for the gift of talent.
May we all discover our true interests and abilities and contribute them toward a better world.
During a reent visit to Disney World, I visited the “One Man’s Dream” exhibit and watched a film about the life of Walt Disney.
Despite many failures, Mr. Disney stayed faithful to his dreams and not only built an enormously successful business empire; he continues to bring joy into the world and to so many people, even after his death.
For me the main take-away message from that film was: Cherish imagination and inspiration. Nourish good ideas. Don’t let then die.
Coincidently, the day after that Disney World visit, I came across a feature about Disney World engineering feats on Modern Marvels on the History Channel.
Again the main take-away message for me was: Keep good ideas alive! The episode even referred to “Keep good ideas alive” being a kind of mantra at Disney.
When I heard that, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to work in an environment that fostered that philosophy!” And then I realized how each and every one of us can do that for ourselves. We can honor our good ideas, nourish them like little seedlings, and help them grow.
We can. And we must, I think.
It’s my belief that we are all meant to be “Imagineers,” whether or not we have any work affiliation with Disney. We all have the gift of imagination. We all get inspired with ideas. Not every thought is a good idea, of course. We do have to distinguish and discern.
But we all do get good ideas. The especially good ideas are the ones that can help make the world a better place, not necessarily in a big Disney-like way. Although, who knows where a seemingly-small good idea may lead? Consider how the Disney empire began with a drawing of one little mouse.
The best good ideas come through our hearts as well as our heads. What good ideas have been gifted to you? Is there something nudging at you now as you read this, asking for your attention?
Besides keeping alive the ideas that use our particular expression of talent, let’s keep alive good ideas for the world. For example, let’s keep alive the idea that every man, woman, and child on the planet can have their basic needs met. Imagine every person having shelter, food, water, clothing, an education and health care…basic well-being.
What a good idea! A GREAT idea! And it IS possible!
Let’s not let naysayers and “bad” news mongers lead us into thinking we are foolish to dream or that we are doomed.
Let’s keep good ideas alive! Let’s help make them grow. How? Begin by visualizing good ideas as real. Nourish them in your mind and heart. See good ideas for the world and your own personal good ideas coming into reality. And each time you see it, say “Thank you.”
Many of us hold a limited and limiting definition of talent, believing talent to mean special skill in art, athletics and academics. This narrow understanding can restrict learning ability, performance, and happiness in all aspects of life.
During 1999-2000, I visited classrooms in a variety of school settings throughout America, where I read my book, The Twelve Gifts of Birth. I then engaged the children in discussion about their inner resources of strength, compassion, beauty, and other human capacities, including the gift of talent.
Everywhere I went, I asked children to tell me about their gift of talent. In every classroom, hands shot up, and I got answers like, “I can draw. I can sing. I’m good at baseball. I’m good at swimming. I’m good at math. I’m good at spelling.”
In nearly every classroom, there were a few students who hesitated to name a talent or did not did claim one at all.
Next, I asked, “What do you love to do? What makes you happy?”
Then, every child showed eagerness and enthusiasm. And, I heard answers like, “I’m good at taking care of my baby brother; I can make people laugh; I’m good at putting puzzles together; I like to look at the stars; I know sign language; I love my dog; I can twirl my tongue; I can put my legs behind my head!”
These answers demonstrate that, by approaching talent in a broader way and asking about likes and abilities, children readily begin to see the notion of talent in a broader way and they see themselves as “talented,” which usually leads to an increased sense of value, self-worth, and potential for learning.
Whenever I lead this expanded activity, I observe what appears to be heightened happiness and a greater sense of respect for self and others.
So, I’m suggesting three ideas to help expand the limited, common view of talent that is prevalent in our culture:
1. Let’s start using a new word: Talentry. The word talent is well established as primarily related to the 3 A’s… academics, athletics, and the arts. It is probably easier to use a new word than to try to expand the meaning of an existing one. Talentry could be that word, meaning “the mix of abilities and interests that exist in any and every human’s makeup.”
2. I invite you to make a Talent Tree. Start with a blank “Talent Tree” for yourself and one for each person doing this activity, if you are doing this with others. You can draw your own trees with a simple trunk and straight lines for branches. Use the one provided here as an example. The idea is to fill in the branches, one-by-one, with aspects of a person’s own, unique talentry. Brainstorm. What comes easy? What brings joy? What do you love to do? What do you care about? These are the clues for aspects of one’s talentry. Note everything that comes up. Have fun with this. The purpose is to expand appreciation of all our traits, not judge anything as “unimportant.” Nothing is too small in this quest. The sample “Talent Tree” in process here is meant to be a guide.
3. Fill in as many branches as you can. Then, be on the look-out. Make it a game. Continue to add all those seemingly small qualities and interests to your Talent Tree.
I believe that when we all get this expanded view of talent … when we see that every person has and IS a unique expression of talentry … we will all begin to experience more reverence and joy in our hearts as well as greater success in the world.