"The gift must always move," I read in an article by Lewis Hyde over 40 years ago. I was in my early 20s and only knew that I had to write poetry and also find a way to pay the rent and go out for occasional enchiladas. Until I read those lines, I didn't connect the truth of seeing a calling -- something we feel born to do or something that emerges with such clarity that it just about takes our breath away -- as a gift I needed to pay forward. I only knew Hyde was saying something vital about how to craft a life, and I hoped the details would come into focus in the years to come.
They did: I discovered for myself, and in time, for all the students and workshop participants I worked with over the next forty years, that we are here to share our gifts. This is our work in the world, even if it seems very small or just involves one person needing our perspective, one rescue dog needing a home, one yard needing transformation from a dump into a garden. Our gifts are varied and evolving. We could have the gift of hospitality, such as helping strangers find common ground and feel a sense of belonging at an event. Or the gift of insight and intuition, enabling us to size up a complicated situation quickly and translate it into helpful language for others. Some people have the gift of keeping their focus and equilibrium in tumultuous times. Others possess the gift of gab, a talent for humor, a presence that invites peace, or a mind for thoroughness and detail.
In truth, becoming a poet was rooted in the gift of having to write, not in innate talent. I went from very mediocre writing ("you are a rose among thorns," when I was 19) to writing poetry, fiction, memoir, and songs built on years of toiling and playing in the land of language. I went from working crappy jobs to support my writing to grassroots organizing to teaching at the college level to doing all I do now, living in a gig-based gift economy in which I share what helps others connect with their callings on the page or in their work.
How does the gift move in my life? I facilitate writing workshops and retreats and coach people on connecting with creating writing and their livelihood. I also collaborate with others, such as Kathryn Lorenzen on Your Right Livelihood, which is a gift that keeps rippling out because co-creating something of meaning with another is immensely satisfying.
Like most of us, the older I get, the more the strands of my life make for a tapestry of great texture, color, and story. Another way to say this: when we follow our gifts, nothing is wasted. We continually learn how to integrate what we've lived with who we are and what feel called to offer to others.
What are your gifts and how are they moving along in the world? We invite you to discover more about this question and related ones in our upcoming small group coaching session, "Will Create for Love and Money," Sun., Feb. 4th at 2 p.m. CT/ 2 p.m. ET/ 1 p.m. MT/ 12 p.m. PT. Details here for this 90-minute session (only $9.99).
We also invite you to learn more about our Your Right Livelihood class, setting sail Feb. 18. We love visiting with people about the class through discovery calls, so please be in touch if you'd like to talk.
For more on Hyde, check out his writing, including his superb book The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World.