I often ask myself: “Are you living your life to the fullest and using your true gifts and talents?” My great niece shown in the photo served as my trigger and reminder to write this blog. While on one of her summer vacations, she was doing one of the many things she loves….swimming and having big summertime fun at the pool and the beach. You can see the exuberance as her Dad tossed her in the air with arms stretched out and a big smile on her face. She is like many six year olds who embrace and enjoy life….of course, clearly not having as many cares and concerns that we adults have. She also is a budding athlete who enjoys soccer, t-ball, swimming, and who has excelled in basketball. You must know that she is the only girl on her community basketball team in Raleigh, North Carolina and she has been the highest scorer in soccer several times. When I see her when visiting North Carolina, we usually engage in some outdoor activity like throwing/catching a baseball, badminton, racing around the yard to see who the fastest….of course, I generally lose and end up a bit sore the next day, but what fun we have together!!
In the 8th grade, I found my love for interpretative dance. So my first debut was at the 4-H Talent Show at the Northampton County Extension Office, where I danced to a song by the late Noel Pointer, an African American classically trained jazz violinist. In high school, I remember trying out for the basketball team in high school. Boy, was I awful!!! So, I tried out for the cheerleading squad where I could show off my jumps and splits. That’s where I found my niche, athletically that is.
While attending the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, I did take a tennis class. My teacher told me that I was pretty darn good and had a “mean back hand”. Unfortunately, I didn’t play much tennis after the class to nurture my tennis skills. As they say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” But during my freshman year at UNC-G, I competed in the Miss Black Greensboro Pageant where my talent was an interpretative dance to yet another Noel Pointer song. To my utter surprise, I won the pageant and was crowned Miss Black Greensboro and was later in the top ten for the Miss Black North Carolina pageant…I couldn’t image it!!!
At the age of 54, I started participating in marathons and benefit walks in the DC/MD/VA area, with my very first being the Marine Corp Marathon in 2013, where I alternated power walking and trotting for a total of 26.2 miles. WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING???? BUT, I completed the Marathon and was excited about what I deemed was a major accomplishment. I’ve been powerwalking and strength conditioning with my two marathon buddies ever since… who, by the way, are 8 years my senior!!
As a professional, my job tasks and work assignments usually include some type of writing whether it is a report, proposal, conference/meeting announcements, business letters, training manuals, and so forth. I do recall that one of my previous supervisors at a Maryland-based consulting firm shared with me years ago that my writing skills needed much improvement. So, I took a couple of writing classes and also worked with a coach who would help me refine my skills. Even today, I still think that my writing skills need lots of improvement….so I’m constantly striving to “sharpen my axe” so to speak even with the help of a great editor periodically.
Over the past 20 years, I have been reminded by family and colleagues that I have only touched the tip of the iceberg in actually exercising what they see as my true gifts. This often had me quite bewildered because at that time I truly didn’t know what these gifts were. It was really not until my work with the Gregory B. Davis Foundation and my service with my church where I truly became conscious of my true gifts. Namely, they are those that things that I am passionate about such as planning and organizing events and activities, facilitation and training, and being a catalyst for collaboration between organizations and groups. But, I know that I must always strive to grow and improve.
My question to you is “Are you fully exercising your gifts?” Each and every one of us have gifts. Maybe you don’t know what they are….maybe you haven’t been presented with opportunities to fully exercise them….or maybe you simply are afraid to set out and truly test the waters. In thinking about this question, remember to EXAMINE your DESIRES (what is it you want to do), EXAMINE the EVIDENCE (some gifts have to be developed, sharpened) and EXAMINE the OPPORTUNITIES (seek what is needed and how you can serve). Most of all, throughout all of this just remember one of the quotes from the late and great Muhammed Ali: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” Then, much like my great niece with arms raised, you will experience the exuberance of serving and exercising your gifts.