Today I asked my students, “What are you doing? Like, seriously, what are you doing?”
It didn’t take them long to get it. Some understood within seconds, others took a few seconds longer. One of my students presents as severely autistic, but even he understood the severity of my question.
What, in fact, were they doing? Not just right now, but also, only right now: what were they doing with their lives?
I only asked because the night before, I asked myself that same question. I was not being judgy. I did not ask it with a harsh tone. Sitting on the back porch, looking up at the stars, I simply wanted to know: what was I doing with my life.
I’m grateful to be able to say I was proud of my answer.
I am talking to people.
I talk to my wife as often as I can.
I talk to my daughter about everything we can imagine.
I talk to my boss; I talk to my coworkers — I consider all of them my friends, and some of them among my closest friends.
I talk to people I haven’t seen in days, weeks, months, and years, family members, high school and college friends, people I once met somewhere and only for that once.
I talk to people on Facebook when I’m able, even if only by liking what they’ve shared.
I talk to my students in honest and authentic ways about anything I think might help.
I talk to you — whoever you are — to let you know you’re not alone.
I’m proud of what I do. I get to talk to people as openly and as honestly as I can about anything and everything that any of us can imagine (with our fluid imaginations…get it?).
I asked my students that question because I wondered if they believe they have a gift, and if they do, if they’ve discovered how best to use it.
My daughter’s fifth birthday is next week. On Sunday, we took her to her first concert, the Grand Point North festival on the public lakefront in Burlington, Vermont. One of her favorite bands appeared on the setlist, as did one of mine. It seemed like kismet, and so my wife and I decided to make the concert her birthday gift…
(for the record, I would have taken her to the festival even if one of my favorite bands wasn’t playing, and I told my wife we could leave the show well before the time limit she had set for the evening, which meant I missed more than half of my favorite band’s set — I’m not complaining, I’m just saying…I didn’t get my daughter this gift just because I wanted to play with it too 🙂
…and she loved it. She was a little hesitant at first, but once her favorite band started to play, she loosened up, and by the end of the night she was dancing on the lawn, swinging glowsticks, and chasing a red balloon. In addition, she got to have two bowls of ice cream at two different times during the night; she ate her favorite food — cheese pizza (made entirely from Vermont-grown and Vermont-harvested ingredients, though she didn’t know it) — while sitting on the rocks and watching the Sun set over the waters of Lake Champlain and the peaks of the Adirondack mountains. She got to throw large stones into the lake for a really long time. And she spent an entire evening with her mommy and daddy, who are genuinely her two most favorite people on the planet.
It was an evening that was wholly gratuitous. She received all that the world had to offer her — music, food, family, community, and the natural beauty that comes from the interaction of water, the Earth, the sky, and the Sun — in a word: she received love.
It cost her nothing. She asked for nothing. And it was simply given.
That is what it means to have a gift. She received that gift from us, and now, rich with the world’s extraneous grace, she is prepared to offer it to someone else.
Everyone has a gift like that.
It’s that thing that comes out of you that seems to mean something to someone else. That gratuitous grace that is yours to give.
That’s your gift.
And every day you should do two contradictory things with it: give it away and cultivate more of it to grow.
So now, rich with the knowledge of your gift, I ask you, “What are you doing? Like seriously, what are you doing?”