What do people need in order to thrive? We often think in terms of making sure everyone's needs are met, but I have a friend who reminds us that it's also essential to have our gifts be appreciated.
That's why I was there, going door to door for her City Council campaign. Because she made my gifts welcome. I never thought political organizing was something I wanted to do. On the other hand, if I was going to do it, there are other candidates I also would have supported, had they wanted my support. But they weren't interested in what I had to offer.
I thought back on my life. Any time something went badly -- work, school, volunteering, hobbies, friends, romance -- it was usually because I was in a place where my gifts were not appreciated.
Should I be more mindful of that in making my choices? I've always been someone who doesn't want to take whatever's in front of me. I want to see all the choices, and choose the one that is best. I've always had stubborn loyalty to people I chose as my friends, even if they didn't appreciate what I had to offer. What if I also take into account whether my gifts are appreciated?
Not that it would be the only thing. It's true that when I look back at my life, I see that a lot of the unsuccessful things had to do with trying to fit somewhere where my gifts were not appreciated. But when I look back at my life and see what has endured, I see that what has endured are things that I've stuck with in spite of my gifts being unwelcome.
I heard a song today that I remember liking 35 years ago. I've liked folk music all my life. I tried volunteering at a folk music venue. They didn't need me. I quit that venue, but I didn't quit folk music. I found a different venue to volunteer at, one that did need what I had to offer.
I've grown apart from some people I used to be friends with. Mostly it's because in the past, I chose friends with whom I could share my playful, silly side. Now, what's most important to me is something different. Now I choose people who see the world as complex, people who realize that what's right for them isn't what's right for everyone else, people who don't tell others what to do.
I've grown apart from many of the people I used to be close to, but some are still my friends. It may not be the same, we may not spend time together much, but there are at least two people I've known over a decade with whom there is still some genuine friendship. It feels like kind of a thin thread, but it also seems genuine and enduring. Both of these are people who haven't always appreciated what I have to offer. Both are people who pushed me away. But I stuck with it, I maintained some sense of friendship even as we grew apart, because I saw something in that person that was worth treasuring.
So, with folk music and with friends, with everything that has endured in my life, there have been times when my gifts were not appreciated, but I stuck with them anyway.
So no, having my gifts be appreciated isn't everything. I wouldn't work for a cause I was opposed to, just because the organizers appreciated my gifts. Nonetheless, I could be more mindful of whether I have a place for my gifts to blossom. I choose what values, interests and activities to pursue. I choose to be with people I treasure. But when I'm in a niche where my gifts are being smashed repeatedly, then it's time to turn away and see if there's a different niche, also compatible with my values, where my gifts could be given a chance to blossom.