Friday, December 07, 2007


This month I finished Zenna Henderson’s “Ingathering” stories. I hear that she had an LDS background. Anyone know more about that? Anyway, the main characters in her People stories belong to a race that had to leave their home planet because it was dying. The stories are about the experiences of the refugees who arrive on earth and try to find each other and assimilate to life here. The People are just like humans, EXCEPT that they have Gifts. (They call them “gifts, signs and persuasions.”) Each one of them is born with at least one Gift, and it is exciting for them as they grow to discover which gift they have. (These include things like the ability to calm others, heal them, direct space travel, etc.) And then there are a few Gifts that all of them have (being able to fly/float).

One of the things I enjoyed pondering most about these stories is the way that people treat Gifts when they are confident that each individual’s gift comes from God, and the dispensing of gifts has nothing to do with the worthiness of the receiver. If we truly all acknowledged the source of our gifts, where would be the place for pride? How much more generous would we be towards each other? Sometimes wealthy people are reluctant to share what they have because they worked so hard to get it, and it seems to them that others are not working as hard. But what if they recognized that the ability to work hard, the health to work hard, the emotional strength to persevere—all of those are gifts from God as well?

If I truly believed that any talent I have in writing, for example, came from God and not because I was particularly worthy or special, would I treat my writing differently? Would I spend so much time envying those who are obviously more talented than I? Would I work harder or less hard?

Probably harder, since I would see that God gave me the gift simply to benefit those around me, and not to prove that I was more valuable. But as soon as I saw the gift beginning to make life HARDER for those around me (my family, for example, who might suffer if I neglected them for The Gift), I would repent and cut back on the time I invested in it. Because if it were for the benefit of all, what good would it do to hurt others in the pursuit of its development?

Why is the thought that I MIGHT be talented so precious to me? Because I still secretly hope that giftedness is a sign of blessedness, of having the favor of God. How can I learn to see this differently—to see that yes, it is a gift from God, but it is not a sign of favor, that it has nothing to do with my worth or deservingness?

As soon as I learn to accept it for what it is, I will no longer be ashamed of my weakness, nor proud of my strength. I will not hesitate to use it, publicly, for good, because it does not reflect on me (except as it shows my failure to put time into practicing, I guess). I’m thinking now of the women in my Relief Society who play the piano but refuse to play the hymns for us in our meetings out of bashfulness. How am I refusing to use my gifts out of fear and pride?

Um . . . I just saw that all of the paragraphs in this post end in question marks. Sorry about that. It’s a sign of sloppy writing. (And here I am apologizing for my weakness.) What it’s a sign of is that I don’t care to put in any more time on polishing this particular piece of writing because I am going to go make Christmas presents with my kids now. Currently I think that that’s where God wants me to use my gifts today.

Oh--on a whole nother subject, Wadja think of this?

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Marj said...

I got genius. That can't be right.

Zina said...

My blog is at an elementary school reading level -- but so is James Lileks', so I'm comforted a bit. I often break apart my sentences into shorter ones after I write them to make for simpler, easier reading, and I guess that helps do the trick. (That, and mostly only writing cute kids stories on my blog so far.)

I think the topic of gifts is really interesting. I love feeling like I can create things that are unique, which I suppose might come from the influence of our very individualistic culture, but I do hate how specialization makes it so that people think they have to be an expert in something to do it at all; for example, in Ireland everyone sings or plays an instrument (so saith my RM sister) and doing so is not considered to be just the domain of singers and musicians -- or at least, everyone's considered to be a singer or a musician. Here, you get so many people who shy away from singing because they claim they "can't sing," and I often have thought the truer humility would be to sing anyway. I had a mission companion who had always avoided singing hymns because she felt she couldn't sing, but she was trying to overcome that, and I admired her courage. (And she sounded good.) On the other hand, I am one of those who always says I can't play sports, and if I'm in a situation where it's expected, in my shame and embarrassment I often call undue attention to myself over my shortcomings. I guess I need a little humility, there.

(Those are my rambling thoughts on the topic, for now. Have fun making Christmas gifts -- we just put up our tree and I'm Scroogily avoiding decorating it. I wish we'd gotten a smaller one.)

Ang said...

Darlene, I should copy this blog post and keep it. You are my wisest friend, I think.

And my blog is JUNIOR HIGH! I'm insulted. Maybe it's because I use exclamation points too much!!!!

Ang said...

Also, side note: I've been wondering lately about the phrase "a whole nother" lately (and I'm not being critical, because I've written it like that, too). Is "nother" even a word? Do we say it because we're breaking up the word "another" with the word "whole"? If we're being technical, should we say "a whole OTHER"??? Someone figure it out and let me know.

Zina said...

I've always thought of "whole nother" as a cute/fun/slangy saying, and concurs -- calling it "informal":

Zina said...

Oh, and, yeah, it's because we're breaking up "another" with "whole," as you said. It's wordplay.

Darlene said...

Angela, I only use ABSOLUTELY correct language on the most formal level possible. Which is why I got a high school level, don't you know. (I would never use a sentence fragment, either.)

(I take it as a sign of your great sophistication that you wondered about "whole nother" but didn't flinch at "wadja.")