Seems an odd request to ask to be used, doesn’t it? Most people get their back up pretty quickly if they feel they’re being taken advantage of, or used. But I’ve noticed something over the last few years: even though we’re surrounded by talented and open-hearted people, we rarely use their gifts. I believe there’s something Biblical in doing so; after all, God has gifted each one of with a unique skill set. Even those who claim to not be gifted in anything are, happily, wrong!
How many people are walking around with the mistaken notion that they’re not needed or valued? Too many, I’m afraid. It makes me sad, but what makes me mad, is when people offer their gifts and skills in the face of a clear, in-your-face, at-this-moment need and they’re met with a “we’re good.” As in, we don’t need your help. Really? A willing, able, wants-to-help person you’re just turning away? Yep. I’ve seen it and unfortunately experienced often enough, now I’m just upset. Why do we do this to each other?
At churches and high schools across the country, we take tests that are designed to pinpoint our gifts. I always thought it a little odd when folks over 30 don’t know theirs. But dutifully we take these tests. I’ve done so at least four times. Each time the results are non-surprising. Beyond those tests are just observations of activities I do that bring me joy. Since I’ve had offers to use those gifts rebuffed a few times, I am more sensitive (or I like to think I am) to others who dare offer a service or skill. I jump at the chance to let them. Since I work with junior high kids primarily, I’m especially keen on taking them up on offers so they learn right away how helpful valuable they can be. They love it!
A juxtaposition I can’t forget: I’m sitting in Bible study with a woman in her early 70s. We’re in the proverbial circle talking about our gifts and she’s sure she has none. She explains how she watches her two granddaughters a few days a week and takes them where they need to go, plays with them, makes puzzles, helps with reading. While there, she also cleans up for her daughter, the mom, and does laundry so when mom comes home from work, she is greeted to order and calm. “But I don’t really have any gifts that I can think of.” I loudly harrumphed. I did. Really?!?! Then, a 12 year old girl hears her 11 year old friend talk about how lost she feels as a child of divorced parents and how she’s been through “too much drama” already. Two weeks later, those girls are doing a private Bible study with two other little girls and the 12 year old uses her passion to plan and prepare and welcome, anchoring her friend’s weekend.
From these people I’ve learned a few things: when the tables need to be moved in my classroom and I can do it myself, I ask students to do it. When a teenager tells me about their trouble coming to a life decision, I listen and assure them they have all the skills they need to make the right one and that I believe in them. When a kid wants an answer after “struggling” for only a minute, I tell them I’m confident they can persevere…then affirm, affirm, affirm when they get it. Sometimes our gifts lie in our ingenuity, sometimes in creativity, sometimes in just believing that we can offer the world something of value, even if considered insignificant by some. But for Pete’s sake, don’t you dare think that of yourself, and if someone offers a gift, thank them and use it. I’m begging you!