Lewis Hyde’s The Gift

Time for Some Chutzpah

Wisdom Card

Whose wisdom has made a difference in your life?

When I have three conversations in a week, all variations on the same theme, I know something is afoot.

Conversation number one was with a fellow writer.  Some years ago she wrote a beautiful memoir about raising her severely disabled son.  She told me that she had decided to stop giving the book away because it was just too much trouble.  I asked her what she meant that she was giving the book away.  Just that she said.  She wasn’t charging anything.  Not even postage.  Someone asked for ten books and out they went.  I asked her why and she said that she didn’t feel comfortable asking for money and she was OK with that.  But she was tired of shlepping to the post office. Her compromise is to send people a link to a free book download from her website.

Conversation number two was an email exchange with a friend, a brilliantly creative calligrapher who also paints and has designed tile and glass installations as well. In last week’s blog she described her participation in her city’s beautification project thus:  This summer I was asked to put paint on a utility box.

“Putting paint on a box” is how she devalued her creation and execution of four vibrant murals painted on an enormous metal utility structure.  I couldn’t help but reframe reality and send it to her: She, among other superlative artists who reside in this major North American city, was chosen to be a part of said city’s beautification plan.

Conversation number three was with a friend I’ve known for 40 years. She knows me better than anyone but my husband. I was sharing with her an ongoing frustration with a loved one. Although we were speaking over the phone, I could feel how intently she was listening.  She offered her response in broad terms about the human condition and the ebb and flow of all loving relationships.

“You are so wise,” I said. “You have such a way of listening carefully, without judgement. Some how you invite people to see their situation from a slightly different perspective, shifting maybe only five degrees, but it makes such a difference.”

“You said that once long ago,” she replied.  “You called me wise. I had the chutzpah to believe you.”  She is now in rabbinical school and is training for chaplaincy work with hospice. The world is already a better place because in that moment when I praised her for her wisdom, she chose to own her gift.

We have to have the chutzpah to believe in and to claim our strengths!  Not dismiss them as insignificant, but all out recognize that we have each been given something that is distinctly ours with which we can better our corner of the world. Whatever it is, it is of value. We shouldn’t feel dirty asking to be respectfully compensated. We shouldn’t minimize or downplay what we have to offer.

Having the chutzpah to own our gift doesn’t mean we’re better than anyone else. I’m a good writer. I move people with my words. I enlighten and entertain. I’ve even caused a few conflagrations. I’m taking that gift in a new direction with Picture a Conversation™ — inspiring people to deepen their relationships through the simple act of having a conversation. I’m a good writer, yes, and one who can be peevish, short tempered, a procrastinator. I’m still working on not offering unsolicited advice to my beautifully adult children. But I do not duck when praised for my writing ability. I’m good at what I do and am thrilled when I hear my advice column has helped someone or that my children’s book is a treasured favorite.

Enjoy your gift. Share it joyfully. Revel in it and grow it. Be comfortable expecting compensation. You’ve been given something no one else has been given. Have now the chutzpah to own it.

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