Tim’s father asked him if he had been given a part in the class play at the end of term. The five-year-old beamed happily: ‘Miss Clark said she’s given me a really important job to do! I’m going to start all the clapping off!’ Well, we can’t all be budding actors ...
And what about Olivia who came home from school radiantly showing off her certificate? That week she had been described as ‘a little ray of sunshine’ in the classroom – nothing about her (poor) writing skills and (stumbling) numeracy: she was ‘a little ray of sunshine’, and that meant everything to Olivia and to her parents.
We are all realistic enough to know that there are some things we can do – and others things we can’t. Do I need to be told so bluntly that I can’t sing that I never again sing in public? Do I need to be informed that I am ‘rubbish’ at maths, so that, for the rest of my life, I am afraid of numbers?
Surprisingly, there is a prison inmate who asked to become a Catholic after finding that a 67-word prayer he had written was included in a published catechetical resource for prisons. Until then, he had not realised that he could write something of value to other people. The discovery of his own worth led him to discover God – and it only took 67 words.
There is a saying that ‘if all the birds in the wood were nightingales, a crow would sound sweet.’ Imagine what our world would be like if everyone could cook, paint, sing, act, play an instrument ... wouldn’t life be boring? Why, if all is the same, would one bother visiting a restaurant, art gallery, concert or theatre?
I have a particularly vivid memory of Susan Boyle’s first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. When she walked shyly on to the stage, we all saw the disdainful expressions on the faces of the judges and audience caught on camera. Equally memorable were their reactions as she sang the first bars of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. No longer was she a fortysomething figure of fun from West Lothian, but someone who warranted immediate respect and a standing ovation.
At first, everyone had laughed at this timid, awkward, blustering character, but as Piers Morgan said, after her performance, ‘No-one is laughing now.’ Amanda Holden, his fellow judge, called it ‘the biggest wake-up call ever’.
We all have our unique talents – they are just different and help us to appreciate each other’s God-given gifts. I am a really dreadful cook so I am very glad that there are those who shine in the kitchen. Perhaps there might even be a cordon bleu chef who, unknown to me, has appreciated my ‘compliments to the chef’ on a day when he or she felt undervalued.
God gives each of us a unique mission, perfectly tailored to our talents. As Blessed John Henry Newman wrote: ‘God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons ...’
Perhaps God has called me to be ‘a little ray of sunshine’ in my own unique way. Nothing more. Nothing less.