August 26th, 2006
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“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever
humbles himself will be exalted.”
As I handed back my first ever set of news reporting assignments
at Creighton years ago, I told a student to see me after class,
plainly terrifying her. Nervously she approached me. “What
did I do wrong?”
“I just wanted to ask you, Monika, if anyone had ever told
you that you have a special gift for writing? It’s obvious
from this assignment. It’s the kind of gift that God gives
you and no one can teach. From now on, I will work with you to help
you develop this special gift.”
Monika left the classroom stunned. She was from an immigrant Paraguayan
family and her mother didn’t even speak English. There were
no other writers in her family and her high school teachers wouldn’t
have recognized how unusual her raw talent was.
She told me later that our conversation changed her life. She became
a prize- winning reporter in Florida and now is doing some teaching
(I think) as she raises her family. The incident taught me to always
try to identify and point out gifts and talents to students –
especially to those who have no clue that something they do well
IS a gift or talent.
I think of all this as I reflect on the quote from Matthew about
humility. It’s actually one of my favorite passages in Scripture.
It doesn’t mean denying our gifts. You can’t use a gift
to serve others if you don’t acknowledge that you have it.
It means recognizing that we are the fortunate recipients of God’s
goodness and giving back in gratitude rather pretending that we
were responsible for being lucky.
My brother has a gift for Spanish and has used it to teach the children
of California farm workers to read in both Spanish and English.
The mother of my best friend in high school used her gift for baking
apple pies to raise funds for the band at our Catholic school. My
colleague, Don Doll S.J., uses his extraordinary gift for photography
to celebrate Native American culture and to fight for the abolition
of land mines.
As St. Paul says, there are gifts of many kinds. Everyone has something.
It’s not boasting to recognize our gifts; thank God for them
and view them as an opportunity and obligation to serve the community.
If we do this, the humbling and exalting will take care of themselves.
to the writer of this reflection.
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