Do you have a favorite coffee cup? Do you know why it is your favorite?
I do. And it is my favorite because it is big enough to hold all the coffee I need (not necessarily want) for the day, it’s light-weight, the handle fits my hand smoothly, and the lip is perfectly designed to be thin enough that it doesn’t feel like I really have much on my lip and curved at just the right angle so that it doesn’t dribble on my lip or on itself.
But – it is mine only because I claimed it from a cabinet full of forgotten cups and mugs at the school where I used to work. In fact I have at least three mugs that weren’t originally mine. They were left behind by great teachers who had determined that life held other things for them.
Some left because teaching wasn’t their real calling, but a holding place until their real dreams came into view.
Some left because they were spent – had given all they could and there was no more to give.
Some of my cups were passed down from other teachers who retired before being left behind by someone else.
I didn’t start my collection knowingly for the purpose of collecting cups from great teachers – or even some that were not as great (still good at least). It started because every now and then, I would forget my own cup. I checked out the cabinet, recognized a mug as having belonged to someone that no longer worked there, knew it wouldn’t be missed, and rinsed it out for my own use on that particular day.
I would wind up bringing each new member of my collection home to wash, and never remember to grab it in the morning to take it back.
I know who the previous owner was for a couple of them, and remember them, fondly yet briefly, each time I use their cup. But I don’t know who used to own my favorite one. So, if you recognize your cup and want it back, let me know so I can give it back. (I would give it back, but then again if you loved it like I do you probably wouldn’t have abandoned it – or maybe you intended to share its greatness with others and I’ve ruined that. Who knows?)
Where am I going with this? (Other than confessing my cup thievery?)
Somehow these cups remind me that each of us has a different (even though related) gift. God gave us our personalities, our abilities, our likes, dislikes, and even the smallest parts of our physical being that make one cup feel better to us than another.
But sometimes we miss just how unique our gifts are because they are similar to someone else’s.
Having worked with gifted children for so long, I became aware of something I thought of as GCS -Gifted Child Syndrome. Now this is not a real thing as far as syndromes go – it’s just something I noticed. GCS is my mental notation that a gifted child tends to have a very difficult time understanding that others do not share his or her particular combination of gifts and abilities.
It is real enough that we train teachers to be aware of it, but as far as I know I’m the only one who lovingly refers to it as GCS.
It follows some of us throughout life into adulthood. It is what makes it difficult to understand why we have to explain a particular process that we do naturally to others because – (we believe) everyone can (and therefore should) see it that way. It is what makes it difficult to take a sincere compliment regarding our abilities because we can’t imagine that it is sincere. (Why would they compliment that – can’t they do it too? Aren’t they just being lazy to not do it themselves?)
GCS can be a good thing – it keeps us humble because we don’t even recognize our own uniqueness and cannot therefore exalt ourselves in inappropriate ways. But it can also be a bad thing – because we don’t recognize an ability as a gift and cannot express our gratefulness for its existence, and because we cannot realize that it makes us uniquely valuable to those around us. We can’t see how much we are needed.
Each time I have my coffee in one of my reclaimed cups, I do think about the best each previous owner had to offer to the school in general and to the individual students in their care. I am grateful that all teachers are not alike, that all people are not alike, and that even though the differences are subtle, God created each of us uniquely to deal with the people that we encounter and the tasks that we face each day.
So, if someone pays you a compliment today, and you wonder why they even did, maybe you are experiencing GCS. Notice what it is that makes you special to that person, and be grateful that God allowed you to fill a small need in their life. More than that, be grateful that God made you as the only you there will ever be. He loved you enough to make you from scratch (as we say in baking) instead of from a mold (which is better left for jello or plaster – and maybe even coffee mugs).
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13 NIV)
Thank you, God, for taking the time to make me unique. Help me see today, what it is that I can specifically do to show your love to those around me in ways that would be missing if I don’t step up to the challenge. Help me be grateful that I am exactly who and what you created me to be. Don’t let me miss the beauty that is already here inside me – keep me from the temptation to be like someone else, or to make myself into anything that you did not create. Help me to remember that if I do, I am robbing myself and those around me of the uniqueness that you intended to be most helpful in our day to day lives. You are glorious, God. Your plans and your ways are so much higher than ours. Your creation is beautiful. I worship you today, God; show me how to live and to love like you.