Summer camps characterized a large part of my summer. I assisted with Arts Camp at Southtown, Seed Camp in Marion, AL, and Passport in Greenville, SC. I experienced summer camp in a variety of settings and with a diversity of people. And as the August back-to-school rhythm begins, I cannot help but reflect on what this summer meant to me and what the many children and youth taught me.
Most importantly, I was reminded of this simple, profound, and yet forgotten truth: we are all gifted. By gifted I mean you were created by God with unique and important skills, abilities, and insights. Our gifts are innate, authentic, and part of who we are. Our giftedness is a divine truth. Recall Genesis 1:26-28 where humankind was made in God’s image (termed imago Dei), or 1 Corinthians 12:4-31 where Paul elaborates that the Spirit distributes gifts for God’s Kingdom and the common good. Paul’s proclamation here is exclamatory: we were created with gifts to share and make the world a better place! God’s grace is evidenced in our giftedness. That despite the world’s darkness and suffering, God created us with gifts to help heal the world’s pain and suffering. Perhaps God’s grace is witnessed when we share our gifts with the world.
Yet, how often do we look outside ourselves for the things we need? How often do we believe the lie that we are not enough for the world, for our communities, or even for ourselves? How often do we deny the truth of our giftedness because our world says otherwise? How often do we deny God’s grace because we believe the lie we are not gifted?
If you ever doubt how gifted you are, spend time with a child. Though he was only 5, his gifts brightened the room like New York City lights. Though seemingly small tasks, his intuitive painting, quick grasp of engineering, and endless facts and statistics about the Pittsburgh Steelers revealed his giftedness. As I leaned in closer I witnessed creativity, ingenuity, and passion. Without knowing it, this boy was sharing himself with me, and asking me to do the same. As though the light of his gifts were shining into my own soul to reveal my gifts. And what a blessing, because I have spent much of my life hiding my gifts believing my gifts are inadequate, shameful, and irrelevant. But to this child my gifts were the beginning of a relationship. Sharing my gifts was my response to his invitation to truly be with each other. Here, sharing our gifts was the beginning of a real relationship, of true community. And aren’t real relationships and true community what we are so desperately after?
Though she was only 17, her gifts danced like light from a priceless diamond. I saw incredible compassion for her friends, patience and leadership for her community, and joy as she had fun. As the week progressed, I began to recognize her gifts of evident here. Akin to the boy two weeks prior, this young woman without knowing it was sharing her true self. And she fostered a community where it became safe for others to share their true selves. Again, the creation of a community expressed in authenticity, truth, and realness. To foster such a community also requires the gift of courage—to be oneself despite the world. Just imagine if we shared these gifts with the world. Imagine all the pain and suffering that would begin to find healing if there was more compassion, joy, creativity, ingenuity, passion, and courage. And there are many other gifts I failed to mention!
And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Here with our youth are the gifts necessary for a good and beautiful world. Throughout these camps I witnessed grace! Grace that there is enough in the world. Grace that I am gifted, grace the you are gifted, and grace that we are all gifted. We already have all that we need, gifted to us by God in our creation. But we must share our gifts! It is God’s call for us to share our gifts that these children and youth reminded me of. That miracles happen when we share our gifts. One miracle is the birth of community from relationships that are real, authentic, and healing. Isn’t this the type of community our souls thirst for today? And isn’t this the type of community we describe when we talk about the Church? Perhaps the Church is the Church, and shares God’s grace, when each person is called to share their gifts?
Imagine how beautiful our world would be if we lived each day by sharing our gifts? Imagine how beautiful our own lives would be if we lived each day by sharing our gifts? Yet, such grace and beauty don’t just happen. Because of love, God exists in relationship with humankind. A loving relationship requires that we share. Here love demands we share our divine giftedness with the world. I end with this reflection: it is never selfish to claim your divine gifts, only selfish to ignore them; It is never selfish to share your gifts, only selfish to hide them. What are your gifts? What is God calling you to share with the world?