There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think of my grandparents. Don’t get me wrong, I think of my parents, too. But, for whatever the reasons – poof! – there they are, materializing from some obscure nook or cranny in the wrinkles of my cranium. It’s like I’m reliving some life lesson they must have passed on to me. It might be their clear vision of family (and their support thereof), their acumen for business and finance (yes, despite their immigrant status and lack of high school education, they possessed something that allowed them to become successful entrepreneurs), or even their common sense put downs.
Regarding this last thing, you know what I mean. I’m not talking about nasty insults. No, they played a more vital role, like the slaves who accompanied those Roman generals on the chariot leading an Imperial Era Triumph parade. It is said the slave would whisper into the ear of the conquering general “Heed not the call of the crowds, for all glory passes, all fame is fleeting.”
It’s not like my grandparents presented a wall of never-ending discouragement. Quite the opposite. They pushed and pushed, filling my soul with personal expectations that would dwarf the greatest Roman conquerors. This undefined quest they sent me on wasn’t some mere dream, but a real-life mission. They never told me what it was, they just warned me – yes, I believe “warn” is the operative word here – that God had blessed me with certain talents and that it was my duty to make sure I shared those talents.
As a kid, this scared me. While it was a pressure I could bear, I never understood why God singled me out.
As an adult, I now understand what my grandparents really meant. We all have certain talents. What we don’t all have is the encouragement to discover those talents. To say my grandparents provided that encouragement to me is an understatement. They may have passed from this world decades ago, but they remain with me, encouraging me.
And that’s important because, you see, no matter my age, I am forever searching for this talent they have mandated I share.
In the meantime, my hope is to share this encouragement of personal exploration with everyone I meet, no matter their age. Many of you no doubt have worked with me in a variety of youth programs. Maybe this little revelation explains why I’ve always believed kids can do the darnedest things. Whether it’s scouts earning badges and rank at an accelerated rate, or elementary schoolers understanding (and successfully executing) play progressions in football, or high schoolers producing creative works that reflect a keen understanding of (clean) pop culture humor and satire, I am certain everyone owns a talent or two worth sharing – if only they know what it is.
But my confidence in this is not limited to the younger generation. It applies just as strongly to adults – from newly minted college graduates to newly blessed parents to newly anointed grandparents.
Here’s what I can share with those adults. Talents often don’t reveal themselves until they’ve ripened. They also like to wait for some triggering event. Now, don’t get too serious on me here. We all know the stories of bravery and courage that emerge from the unlikeliest of people in times of crises, but the triggering event need not be dour. Talent can easily arise when inhibitions have been removed, such as on a family vacation, in an off-site training session, or during a volunteer activity.
I can tell you when the talent light bulb has gone off for me, but then I’d risk hearing my grandparents, once again, admonish me with that “passing glory/fleeting fame” thing. All I can tell you is, when you find a talent you can share, there’s nothing that makes your soul feel so free.
And for the ability to feel that feeling, I am forever in debt to my grandparents.