November 5, 2010

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Take what God has given you and do your best with it

Patti LambThanksgiving is only weeks away and, if your Thanksgiving table is anything like mine, it is all about the turkey. Allow me to explain.

The turkey is the star of the show, the king of the holiday. People commend the cook on how moist and flavorful it is. Turkey is the first thing that people want on their plates, and most guests request seconds. Its tender texture becomes the talk of the table. Thanksgiving revolves around a good turkey.

But over the years, I have learned that it is not just about the turkey. One year, I dropped a crockpot of mashed potatoes on my way into Thanksgiving dinner. That day, I learned that turkey is great, but it is better when paired with mashed potatoes. When the mashed potatoes didn’t show up, the meal wasn’t quite the same.

Even the seemingly smallest side items—mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls with butter—are an essential part of a successful Thanksgiving dinner. Working together, they create a flavorful feast that delights the taste buds. At the same time, the dinner experience is diminished without even the smallest part.

In life, we all have something to bring to the table. As St. Paul says, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:4). That’s the Holy Spirit, and he is working through us.

There will always be the “spotlight” jobs, like the turkey at Thanksgiving, the quarterback of the football team and the valedictorian of the class. But the smaller, supporting roles are still as important. Together, all of the gifts that we contribute make up the Body of Christ. However humble, we all have something to share. God is at work in all of us.

I have a friend who is quiet and reserved. He is a gifted listener. Whenever I bring problems to him, he doesn’t judge me or react, but he takes in my thoughts quietly and sometimes he makes me hear myself. He brings an art to listening. That’s his gift.

He doesn’t always claim that he can give me the answer. He doesn’t attempt to solve my problems. But he listens and he assures me that I will find my way back on track again. He renews my confidence in God and in myself. His keen ability to listen is what he brings to the table.

I also have a friend who is loud and outspoken. Before I got to know her, I was often intimidated by her. But then I witnessed her using that aggressive spirit and determined attitude to raise dollars and awareness for a family who had experienced tragedy and heartache. She came to their rescue like no one else could have. Suddenly, her commanding voice became one of her greatest attributes. She rallied members of her community to save a family in need. Her voice and tenacity are gifts.

Everyone has his or her own unique gifts to bring, and we must allow them to be shared. We shouldn’t discount those among us whose gifts are gentle and humble. We shouldn’t be jealous or resentful of others whose gifts bring them fame and attention.

I once heard that the best thing we can do is to be the best versions of ourselves. I believe that is what pleases God. The goal is not to become the prettiest or the smartest or the fastest.

We can’t all be the “turkey.” Instead, we must take what God has given us and do our best with it wherever we are.

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

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