Experience the Gift of Giving

This post is a little different for me. Normally, I write about leadership, computers or the SDLC. Today I want to switch gears and reflect on the gift of giving through the appropriate use of our talent(s) which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a special often creative or artistic aptitude.” I believe every human being has been endowed by our Creator with some innate talent that can be used to be a blessing to others. Some of us are powerful speakers or writers, others warm hearted, hospitable and friendly; and yet still others artistic and creative. What do you do with the talents you’ve been blessed with?

Since my teenage years, I’ve loved performing before an audience. I’ve acted in community theater, have been on TV, ran for an won a minor political office, have been written about in newspapers and have performed music in front of live audiences, some very large. For the longest time, I enjoyed doing it to satisfy some selfish need in me. I don’t know what it was, I only know I enjoyed receiving the applause of a generous audience.

Something has changed in me though…for the better I pray. As I’ve grown older, my values have shifted dramatically. Instead of performing for me, I now perform to bring joy to others. I care more about the happiness I can bring to an audience which in turn allows me to receive greater fulfillment than I have ever known before.

At least once a week, I perform with a group of like-minded individuals to bring a little bit of happiness to people living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the Raleigh area. Our typical audience runs from about 30 to as large as 100 people. Sometimes, if the home experienced a recent death of a resident, there may only be as little as 3-4 present which is smaller than our group. We perform Gospel music, some bluegrass and easy listening oldies for people who have been largely abandoned and forgotten by their loved ones. Each one of these people has a story. Each story is enough to tear your heart out. Some folks are very old with little time left on this earth, and they tell you straight up that they are just waiting for their homecoming. Others are very young, confined by their disabilities or illnesses for the rest of their lives. Some are visited by their families every week, some once a month and some never. There are even some married couples who live in the same home, but in separate rooms on different floors. It’s not an existence I would want to wish on anyone.

The interesting thing about performing is that you never quite know if the audience is enjoying themselves while you are on stage. Sometimes, the audience sings with you. We even have nursing home where an elderly blind resident sometimes brings his harmonica with him and we play back-up to his lead. He can only play in one key, but the group loves it nevertheless.

The highlight always comes at the end when we are packing up our instruments and resident after resident come up to us and hug us, kiss us, shake our hands and tell us that the hour they spent with us is the highlight of their week. It’s also the highlight of our week. They enter the room downtrodden and depressed, but leave with smiles on their faces and a slight bounce to their step, if they’re ambulatory that is. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That’s the true gift of giving…when the talents you have been blessed with are used to bring joy to others. Have you ever experienced such fulfillment?

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