On Purpose: Your Talents
I had the privilege of experiencing a modern parable a few weeks back. Early in the morning, I arrived at a place in the city where I spend time each week. Having not planned well for breakfast, I popped into a local spot and purchased an egg and cheese biscuit. On my way in, I noticed two men outside and wondered if they'd like some breakfast. I let the thought pass for the moment, unsure if the gesture might be taken well. But even after I purchased just one, I kept thinking about purchasing a total of four biscuits and wondered why.
A short while later, I was outside munching on mine, taking in the surrounding area while watching cars pass by as people headed to their work for the day. Another man approached from a side street and took a seat nearby. I thought, "Ah, four biscuits..." I made my way back to the restaurant and ordered the additional three.
Taking them outside, I walked to the man who had most recently arrived. "Good morning!" I said. "I wondered if you'd like some breakfast?" He quickly pulled away from me and placed a hand up between the two of us. His "No," was firm and insistent. I felt a bit surprised, but shook my head in understanding, smiled and wished him a good day. I had three biscuits remaining.
I next approached the second man who sat on another bench close by. Repeating my greeting, he looked up, adjusted his headphones so he could hear me and I proceeded to ask my question. He looked first to me, then to the bag and shrugged his shoulders saying, "Okay." I handed him the biscuit, smiled and wished him a good day. I had two biscuits remaining.
The third man sat apart, further across the plaza. I approached him and noticed he was sleeping. Hating to interrupt but determined to offer him breakfast, I said, "Excuse me..." He woke with a start, then eased. I repeated the greeting I'd offered to the others. He leaned closer and asked a question I didn't understand at first. He softly asked again, "Do you think I should try it?" His eyes were full of kindness and curiosity. I was caught off guard by his manner and his question as I replied, "Oh yes... I mean, I think they're very good. I got it from right over there..."
Shaking his head in agreement, I smiled broadly, "Oh, there are two in here and they're both for you if you'd like them..." He accepted. I introduced myself and asked his name. Giving him the biscuits, I wished him a good day and left shortly thereafter. I had no biscuits remaining.
This entire experience got me thinking again about our talents. Each of us is offered something in this life which, in turn, gives us something to offer back. If we consider the biscuits as talents entrusted to us, like the first man, we can dismiss the invitation to take hold of them and thereby refuse the enjoyment that comes from using them.
Like the second man, perhaps some of us lay hold of our talent, but we're sort-of neutral about having it. Maybe we're glad to have the talent, but we don't think much of the gift or understand the intention behind it. Perhaps it doesn't really matter beyond what we can personally gain from it.
Like the third man, perhaps we want to know more. We show genuine curiosity and interest in the offering. We seek to understand what it is before taking hold of it with delight.
Who do you relate to in this story?
I was really inspired by the third man. He sought to relate to me over the gift and when he took it as his own, his face showed the delight of the moment. I promise that I do not hold judgment for the other two men, it's just that my experience with the third man stirred something inside of me. I honestly wished that I had more biscuits to give to him. It was a joy to be generous with him because he took interest in the gift and received it in a way that totally increased the joy of the encounter.
My experience also caused me to reflect on what it means to reject or embrace our talents. In the first man's case, he was given nothing because he had no interest in it. Though the gift was right there for the taking and there are many ways he could have used it, not only did he refuse the offer, but he rejected any good that may have come from its acceptance.
The second man received one talent. He could easily use it to take care of his personal need and be satisfied. He could also enjoy part and share a part of it. He immediately had at least a couple of options when it came to next steps. His decision to take hold of it mattered. It opened up new possibilities for him.
The third man gained even more talents. Given his openness that led to my desire to give him both, he was securely positioned to share what he had been given. Not only because of the number of talents he received but because he gained understanding about what he was receiving. He could take the knowledge and do even more with it.
In a way, I started with nothing, too. I was given the opportunity to step into more because I faced a personal need. That very need led me to consider the needs I noticed around me. Not only that but when my need was being met, I was again confronted by the needs of those around me and I felt more care for the people in my path. This moment was the opportunity to grasp the "more." For me, the "more" led me to greater joy, connection, and hope because it led me outside of myself and toward others. All of this from four little biscuit sandwiches...
The beauty of all of the above is how none of it required any sort of grand plan or use of extensive resources. It required eyes to see and a willingness to connect and share. I still think I'm the one who gained the most from the experience that morning. Those men and those delicious biscuit sandwiches reminded me of the greater impact that can come when I employ my own talents in small, but purposeful ways.
- What need, large or small, is being highlighted in your life right now?
- Does anyone else around you have a similar need? (Note: You might have to guess at it/make an assumption and move outside your comfort zone to understand more.)
- What would it look like for you to employ who you are, or the talent(s) you've been given, to see your own need met as well as the needs of another?
When it comes down to it, I honestly believe that living our purpose simply involves us living with open eyes and hearts. You'll notice different things in your environment than I would. When you and I joyfully step into these places of opportunity, we offer something so unique and important to the world around us. Our talents matter. Whether time, actual abilities, resources, etc...
As a quick aside, other people's responses don't limit your ability to offer your talents. People are where they're at for a reason. We can embrace and love them right then and there regardless of their receptivity to us. A friend of mine often says how there's always one more thing about someone else's story that we don't know... We can choose to stay in hope and joy even when the response is not what we expect (or desire).
Now... What do you say that you and I get to work employing and sharing our talents today? I can't wait to hear what you learn and who you connect with as you step out, on purpose.