Today’s Table Talk is by my friend Bill Hendricks. He is in the business of connecting people with their giftedness. Everyone is gifted. A couple of my kids don’t believe it. A few of mine look at the world around them to define their giftedness, chasing after what looks to be the “right” thing to do. They forget that in their DNA there lies unique talents and aptitudes to be who they are created to be. But finding that can be a challenge – for all of us. So, when I saw that Bill compiled into a book (The Person Called You) so much of what he has learned through the years of helping folks, I asked him if would share a snippet with us. It’s terrific. Really. And freeing because, though we’re are lured to believe it, a child is not a product. And neither are we, for that matter.
Anyway, I hope you’re encouraged. Thanks for sharing with us, Bill. … And, as always, thanks for walking the road with me.
On May 10th, my youngest daughter, Amy, graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee (yes, believe it or not, our children finally do sprout wings and fly out of the nest).
It was an extremely huge accomplishment for her: honors B.A. cum laude, with a double major in Greek & Roman Studies and English, Phi Beta Kappa, and winner of the Greek & Roman Studies Award.
No one at the graduation had to guess who the father was: I was beside myself with joy and pride in her.
Ever since, no end of people have been saying, “Wow, Bill, good job! She’s turned out great.”
Of course I can’t disagree. Except I do sort of disagree, on two counts. First, her mother Nancy (who passed away from breast cancer in 2000) did all the “heavy lifting” in terms of nurturing Amy, along with her two sisters. By the time I became a single parent, my job was about as hard as maintaining a 12-1 lead over the Astros in the 8th inning by the Rangers at The Ballpark In Arlington (oh, I forgot, Globe Life Park). Mothers often do that, which is why they are rightfully honored on Mother’s Day (Father’s Day was concocted, in part, by retailers to create “a second Christmas for men”; and guess who usually pays for it?).
But there’s a more fundamental reason why I can take extremely little credit in how Amy “turned out.” Because Amy, like every other child, was not a product to be “turned out.” She is a person. That is, she came into the world (I believe) with her own unique personhood intact. An infant person, to be sure. But neither Nancy nor I “made” her into anything. God made her who she was destined to be (again, my belief).
The reality that a child is not a product but a person completely changes the parenting paradigm. Our task as parents—and later my task as a single parent—was not to “make” Amy into a person. It was to accept and cherish and honor the person Amy had already been made to be, to work with her energy and gifts as best we/I could, so that, like an iconic Polaroid photo, she could “develop” into the image she was created to be. And that image was not intended to be our image. It is Someone Else’s image.
I know what I’m saying totally goes against the prevailing winds of our culture nowadays, and especially the received wisdom about “child development.” But the fact is, it works. Plus it takes a lot of pressure off the job of parenting—which, let’s face it, is pressurized enough as it is. Our/my job was to steward the infant person we were given into the adult person she was meant to be.
I believe I have managed to do that in Amy’s case. She’s happy. I’m happy. Is there a problem? And I didn’t even have to spend that much energy (though I did shell out an awful lot of money!). But really, all I had to do was tap into the profoundly powerful gifts already present in my amazing, delightful, and wonderful daughter.
Bill Hendricks is president of The Giftedness Center, a Dallas-based consulting firm that helps people make strategic life and career directions. He is the author or coauthor of twenty-two books, including his latest, The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life. His thoughts can be found at his blog, BillHendricks.net. He holds degrees from Harvard University, Boston University, and Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the proud father of three grown daughters and is re-married married to Lynn Turpin Hendricks.