Sunday, September 05, 2010

"I Was Born to...."

I'm part of a fairly large and boisterous small group that meets several times a month, and one of our traditions is to have a "dinner table chat prompt." Not that we'd likely fall into an awkward silence without one. But it helps us get to know each other a bit more deliberately. More importantly, it makes sure we hear from everyone.

S. offered this last week's chat prompt. These days he is enthralled with a book called Born to Run,  recommended to him by another member of our group. S. asked us how each of us would complete this sentence: "I was born to _______________."

Rather than focus on the things we have in common, the big picture stuff like "I was born to give God glory," we looked more at our areas of individual passion and unique contribution.

L. went first. "That's easy for me. I was born to teach!" "I can confirm that," said her husband, and so did another member whose daughter has L. as a teacher this year. When she's in the classroom is when L. feels most alive. We all know this about L. Go for it, L!

"I was born to learn," said B., who reads as much as I do and has an insatiable curiosity for exploring new things of all kinds.

"I was born to make things with my hands," said his wife. We were all sitting in her dining room, with a good view of quilts, cross-stitch projects, and other signs of her craftiness, not to mention much of the dinner we were enjoying.

"I was born to appreciate a good story," said another man. "Mine is like that too," said the woman across the table. "I was born to listen to and draw out people's stories. I'm always meeting new people and finding out their stories, and I love it. My husband and kids roll their eyes."

"I was born to 'father,'" said S. "I feel I'm at my best in that role."

We know each other well, so as each one shared the rest of us could nod and smile. We could say yes, I see that in you. Yet asking people to put these traits in their own words helped us understand one another better and affirm each other.

Wondering what I'd say when it was my turn, I realized that in some way I could relate to each item that had been shared. (Well, except that I'd never say I was born to be a dad!) How would I personalize these things, and what was at the core, for me? I'm a teacher, a learner, a story-lover, and listener. But would I just say "ditto" to one of these answers, or is it something else? Is "writing" what I'm born to do? I don't think so...

I think what I really feel "born" to do is to make connections. With any situation or body of information, I look for and try to express the patterns.  I love interviewing, brainstorming, strategy meetings. Any time I read or hear about something I think about how it relates to something else I've seen, heard about, or experienced. This gives me a somewhat cluttered mind, but it means I always have something to contribute. I'm always bringing up stories, ideas, or experiences and offering them to other people. I love to help people find what they need or meet the person they ought to talk to. I believe people are more alike than different; I enjoy finding common ground and helping others do the same. I like figuring out how things work and what makes people tick.

What a sad and less vibrant world this would be if we did not feel willing or welcome to use these talents and passions of ours, to do the things we love and care about the most, the things we have a hunch are the things we were "born" to do.

I just finished a novel in which the heroine's husband tells her, "Russell, this questioning of your abilities must stop. If you have something to contribute, speak up."  (Laurie King, The Language of Bees, p. 353).

My twin sister Megan - who would probably say she was born to make art - wrote about this dynamic on her blog recently, too.

Does this give you any ideas? Readers, how would you fill in the blank? "I was born to _________________."

Are you finding a way to use your talents, doing what you were born to do? If not, what's getting in the way? Do you find yourself doubting whether your contribution is of any use, or trying to please others by becoming someone other than who you were created to be?

Many things can interfere. Sometimes we don't know what we want or care about. Other times we don't have the freedom or other resources to pursue it. We can't always get what we'd want. Maybe we really need to lay it all down and do the things that go against the grain as a sacrifice and service to others. Yet, most of our core strengths can probably find some expression regardless of our situations. We can harness them in responding to the circumstances and opportunities we face.
"Somewhere in you is the you whom you were made to be. We need you to be you. We don’t need a second anybody. We need the first you."  (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis)


Barb said...

todays reading in "a year with c.s. lewis" is from :the weight of glory". In it lewis reminds us that "God makes no appetite in vain." It reminds me of the scene in chariots of fire - God made me fast and when I run I feel his pleasure. to finish the lewis quote: "We can therefore pursue knowledge as such, and beauty as such, in the sure confidence that by so doing we are either advancing to the vision of God ourselves or indirectly helping others to do so."
I was born to cook.

Marti said...

Yes, I thought of that Chariots of Fire theme, too. I like the Lewis quote!

I also like your cooking, Barb... SOMEDAY I will come for Moody family pizza night!

Megan Noel said...

yes, born to make art. sometimes i feel i "should" be doing something more extroverted, but this really is what i am best suited for. and i guess follow your strengths applies to more parts of life than just business!