It was a beautiful Fall day and my neighbor, Dick, was raking leaves. It had been a long morning …he had a lot of leaves…and he was exhausted when he hit the wasp’s nest with his rake. He would have avoided it, of course, but distracted and tired he didn’t see the intricate gauzy football sized home to thousands and his rake cracked it open.
Most of the wasps went into escape mode and left hurridly as their nest fell apart, but a couple stayed to do battle with the man who disturbed them. One took direct aim and stung Dick on the shoulder.
And that’s when the real trouble began because, unknown to him at the time, my neighbor is deathly allergic to bee stings,
It wasn’t long before Dick began to itch and then perspire. When he felt his throat begin to constrict and his heart to accelerate he panicked and called our other neighbor, Jay for help. Jay grabbed his little black bag, ran across two lawns, avoided the shattered wasp nest and administered an antidote for the bee poision. Soon all was well, Dick went into the house to calm his shattered nerves, Jay returned to his workshop to finish working on the cradle he was making for his first grandchild and the wasps set about building a new home.
End of story.
Except, this story could have had a very different ending if the man who was a doctor hadn’t answered the call for help and used his skill to make a difference. What a sad world it would be without the amiable smile and ever willing helpfulness of Dick. How different life for his wife would be. How lonely for him his grandchildren would be. How wonderful for all of us that Jay was willing to use his skills.
Why does that story resonate so greatly with me? Probably because for much of my life I had a hard time even defining any skill that I might have. I tried everything artsy…oil painting, watercolors, basket weaving, metal flowers, tole painting…all with varying degrees of failure. I could sing, but only modestly. Apparently my skill did not lie in things artistic. I could cook, but the only difference that made was that I packed on the pounds. I could drive a car but is that really a skill? Yes, I could talk, but….well we’ll leave that for another day. How nice it would be to know that you could make your mark in the world by saving people’s lives or designing a beautiful building or using your brain to save an innocent party from the gas chamber.
I trudged through my 30’s …that was the Women’s liberation decade … wishing I could make a difference, but never figuring out how. I didn’t believe that raising my children well was a skill…remember, I said it was the time of women’s liberation and the value of women at home was less that that of a woman in the workplace ..and don’t you forget it!
So, even though the one thing that had been clearly my favorite pastime throughout my life could be done at home, writing didn’t seem to have any value unless I worked in an office somewhere. I didn’t think that writing my goofy little articles was important. People always said they enjoyed them, but I wasn’t earning money, so how could it be important or make a difference?
I wrote for the Fayetteville, North Carolina Historical Society paper. One month I was assigned to interview a man in our community who was a State senator and was running for office again. One of his main platforms was the preservation of a building in our city that had been used by troops during the Civil War. It was a quaint old frame house with a front porch and tiny rooms. Troops had been quartered there amidst the live oak trees and azalea bushes, and the southerners were so proud of the place. The state, however, wanted to build a road through that location…a huge help to morning and evening commuting, but a real loss to history.
Senator Harrigan was fighting to keep the building and I made that the centerpiece of my article. It was to appear in ART ON THE SQUARE …the magazine of the Historical Society in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
After it was published, I learned for the first time how a skill of mine could make a difference. People would come up to me and say “I never knew the history of that old house…we can’t let it be torn down. Maybe I’ll vote for Harrigan after all.” And I would smile inside and thing how great it felt to know that someone cared about what I wrote. We left Fayetteville shortly after that and I never gave the old house another thought. Until five years ago.
Don and I went to Fayetteville for a conference and while we were there went sightseeing. The road through the heart of the city took a funny turn and we both commented on the fact that it didn’t seem like a logical place to have a highway. Then we saw the historic signs pointing to the Civil War House and Park. Senator Harrigan had been reelected and had saved the house and the road was rerouted. I’m not sure my little article had any part in it, but it felt like I had been part of something bigger than me and maybe had even made a difference. That was worth gold.
What does all this blather mean? When your gift is words, you have a powerful tool. We can give a speech, but the words can fade away…but when you can write something that changes minds one way or another you can make an enormous difference. And for a Christian, that difference should be for God.
So, how can I use my skills to make a difference? I can write for and about God in such a way that others will want to know Him as I do. And just how do I do that? I understand that any skill I possess is a gift from God and I trust that He will show me what to do with it. Then I have to have the tenacity and the courage to do what I know it right.