June 7, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Focus on the unique gifts that God has given you

Patti LambLast weekend, I found some time and resolve to tackle an overdue task. I finally cleaned out the catch-all room of our home. For quite a while, I’d been avoiding stacks of papers and other misplaced items that I kept promising I’d get around to filing and returning to their proper places.

Underneath a jacket needing a zipper repair, I found a random Scrabble tile and a paper from my son Henry’s second grade back-to-school night. Although the paper contained only one sentence, I saved it as a reminder to myself of a valuable lesson.

Other than Henry’s name and the date, he had written: “I learned that there are seven continents.”

This paper was sitting at Henry’s desk when I went to meet his teacher last August. I sat in his little chair while his teacher presented the second grade curriculum and classroom rules.

She went on to tell us that our sons and daughters had written about what they learned from that day’s geography lesson.

I looked down at my son’s paper and beamed with pride. He even spelled “continents” correctly! Second grade was off to a remarkable start. I smiled at the parent sitting next to me. Then I noticed his daughter’s paper. It was completely full.

Not only had his daughter learned that there are seven continents, but she had named them all—and with remarkable penmanship, I might add. I’m pretty sure I also saw the word “equator” in her composition. I looked back at the paper in front of me and suddenly felt inadequate.

I came home that night and recounted the story to my husband, who reminded me not to play the comparison game. He said that there will always be somebody with more and somebody with less. He picked up a missionary appeal we had received that day in the mail, and read a few sentences about children experiencing extreme poverty and malnourishment.

My perspective meter quickly shifted, and I remembered how abundantly blessed that I am. I’m human, though, and I repeatedly fall into the comparison trap.

At back-to-school night, I should have been thanking God for a son who is healthy enough to attend school. I should have been praising God that Henry is blessed with the opportunity to receive an education. I would have been content if I had counted my own blessings instead of someone else’s.

At this very moment, there are people praying for the things we’re taking for granted. There is much to be thankful for—wherever we are.

My mind turns to a recent Christmas when I went to great lengths to find the perfect doll house for my daughter, Margaret. I imagined the smile on her face when she saw it. I envisioned her reveling in countless hours of creative play. After she unwrapped the dollhouse, she looked over at her brother’s gift and said, “But I didn’t get a Hot Wheels track like Henry did.”

I think God could relate to what I felt that Christmas morning. He is the ultimate giver, yet we often choose to focus on what we don’t have.

Henry has officially completed the second grade, and I am grateful for his progress this year. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot, too.

I’ve realized that God has carefully fashioned each of us with our own unique gifts. And when we strive to grow in his image and bring glory to him, those gifts will surface according to his plan and in his own time.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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