On gifts and talents

Theo Loevendie is a Dutch composer who made quite a career. His works are played in concert-halls all over the world. He really had to fight for his success, because he didn’t come from a musical family and apart from the total lack of support, his step-father had the nasty habit of mocking him whenever and wherever he could. Yet, his family didn’t deny him the right to make music altogether, they just thought it was a load of nonsense. Thanks to his enthusiasm and his, shall we say sturdy character, Theo finally made his way in the musical world.
He had more luck than many others. I used to know a boy who did really well at school. And I mean: really well. This kid was so smart! Several teachers tried to convince his parents to send him to college, and after that maybe university. But no, the parents – the father actually – didn’t agree, and for the most sickening, depressing reason one can imagine. ‘As soon as I was old enough to work,’ the father said ‘I must have been thirteen or fourteen, my father took me from school and made me work in the factory. Just like he did with my brothers and sisters. We got along in life pretty well without diploma’s and all that fancy rubbish. And what was good enough for me is good enough for my children.’ End of story.
I have no idea what happened to this kid later on in his life, because we moved to another town shortly after. But I often think of him. Not so much as the individual he was, but as a kind of token figure, a victim almost of a demeaning and depressing way of life. Seeing such a lack of interest, ambition, curiosity, creativity, vigor in a person is sad enough as it is. But constraining and confining your children to such an extent that they cannot become what they might have been and could have been, that really breaks my heart. What a loss of talent! And most of the time out of shear envy of fear, that your child might outgrow you and do better in life; that your child might be extraordinary whereas ordinary is the norm..
It is sad when it comes to the normal – artistic, musical, academic – talents people have. It is even worse when it comes to the special gifts that are innate in us and which are divine by origin. Those special talents we see in healers and prophets and saints. Too often these talents are ridiculed or demonized, or, at best, not recognized. Just look how, throughout history, prophets and healers and saints were treated. Even in Math. 13, 55 the people of Nazareth can’t quite conceal their annoyance when Jesus teaches in the temple: isn’t he the carpenters son? In other words: who does he think he is?
What is it with people, that we are so anxious to meet God, so eager to find traces of the Divine in our everyday life, and yet, when God or the Divine does show up, we somehow won’t see it. The Divine does show itself in the ordinary gifts of ordinary people: in love and friendship, in shared sorrow and shared joy, in forgiveness and comfort and care and all these simple, ordinary things that make our lives less ordinary and special and worth living. But we won’t see it as long as we expect the Divine to appear in the unusual shapes and places and at the weirdest occasions.
If only we would recognize these talents, these beautiful divine gifts in others and in ourselves. If only we were willing to open up and let them grow and glow and work miracles in this world.

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