When my first nephew Jordan was turning one, I went to Toys R Us to buy him a present. Bill and I planned to give him a savings bond, but I wanted to bring something he could play with, too. So I went to the 12-month-old section and chose a colorful stuffed wiggle worm.
The day of the party, Bill and I showed up to find Jordan pushing a Little Tikes lawnmower across the lawn. I’d gotten my nephew a toy appropriate for an infant and this kid was mowing his backyard.
Before attending a family gathering, I ask (when I remember to ask, which is not always) what I can contribute. I usually get assigned the rolls. You can’t mess up bread unless you bake it yourself. And my relatives know I’d never try.
In the last month of my dear friend Jackie’s life, a group of us would gather each day at her home. I’d marvel at the beautiful daffodils Jen brought, smell the home-cooked meal Gail had prepared. Me? I’d contributed nothing. I’m no good at flowers. Or dinner.
Before Letters for Scarlet launched, I needed to update my blog to an author website and create a newsletter. Unable to do these things on my own, I solicited the help of Aimee Horton, a website designer and one of my publishing sisters at Velvet Morning Press.
On my release day, I received requests for a Book Club Discussion Guide and I joked to my online writing group about having no idea how to do this. Within hours, my sweet friend Jennie had created a button for my blog and a pdf of the questions I’d written. (It’s on this page if you scroll down on the right. A big green button that says CLICK HERE!)
There are many things I am not good at and I’ve been frustrated to the point of tears at times wishing I could be better. I’m guessing we all do this, focusing on our weaknesses rather than our strengths.
When my second nephew Riley was born, I came to my sister’s house and stayed with her. While Nancy worked on nursing a reluctant newborn, I pushed Jordan around in his Little Tikes car. We sang songs and read books. He called me Au Ju because he was 18 months old. And Auntie Julie is a mouthful.
When I attend a family gathering, I bring rolls (if I remember to ask) and drive two or three hours depending on which family we’re visiting. I make this drive fairly often because what I have to offer is time and flexibility. And also love. Always the love.
When Jackie was too sick to get out of bed, we’d sit beside her and watch TV. Or talk. Tell stories. I’d toss out a joke and Jackie would smile. In her perfect English accent she’d say, “You’re so clever,” and my heart would swell.
When another publishing sister of mine said she needed a Beta Reader for her novella, I spent my Sunday line-editing her pages. For the record, her novella was great and it was my pleasure. Something I’m good at.
What a relief, at last, to be of use.
I said as much to Bill and after some thought, came to this conclusion: I should probably stop beating myself up for what I’m terrible at and focus on my strengths.
I suck at gift-giving (no really, I’m horrible) and flower-buying and baking and technology. It’s undeniable: I lack these talents.
What I have in abundance is time and editing skills. Jokes and love. I have this space to honor memories. To share my thoughts, hopes, dreams.
These Sydney based tech aren’t all practical things, sure; but they’re what I have to offer, and I lend them freely to people who need my particular skill set.
Have a blog post you want comments on? I’m your girl! Need your Instagram post or Facebook status or Tweet liked and shared? Bring it! Got a manuscript that requires editing? Send it over. Or I’ll come to you and bring rolls or wine or something else I can’t ruin in an oven.
I even keep a cork extractor in my purse. (Everyone’s good for something.)
So tell me: What are you good at? I promise there are pieces of greatness in you. Don’t look for what you’re missing. See what’s THERE.
Let’s toast to filling in each other’s blanks. To bringing to the table what we have to give. Let’s agree to stop berating ourselves when we need help, and instead highlight the gaps we fill.
It takes a village to raise a child. To celebrate a life. To launch a book.
To be a human.
Put our pieces of greatness together and we make a beautiful whole.
To order your copy of Letters for Scarlet, click here. To download the Letters for Scarlet Book Club Discussion Guide, click on the green box above on the right.
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