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The day the genius died

When I was in the third or fourth grade, the school in my small hometown got a Gifted and Talented program. The program was designed to identify which children are especially bright, who may need some extra activities and projects at school to help hold their interest.

Well, I was fully convinced that my genius had not been appreciated or recognized by anyone around me. I was ecstatic about the prospect of showing the whole world that I was truly gifted, and to be honest, there was no doubt at all in my 9-year-old brain that I would be a shoo-in for the program. I imagined that the G/T teachers would feel honored to be able to work with someone of my ilk, a rare brain that is just waiting to be mined for all of its brilliance.

I remember well the day they tested us. Part of the test was oral, part was written, and there was even a section where we were asked to draw a picture. One thing I remember they asked in the verbal section was how many miles it is around the earth. I’m pretty sure I guessed a million. And, I just recently Googled that, and let’s say I was off. Way off. The picture drawing section had a black oval on it, and the test asked us to incorporate the oval into a drawing. I made the oval the top part of a shoe print. And then I drew shoe prints all over the page. I thought it was brilliant. At one point, I glanced over at another girl’s drawing, and she had drawn a huge chicken sitting on top of the oval. “Ha!” I scoffed to myself. “I’ll bet everyone did that! I am UNIQUE!”

The testing ended, and I waited with great anticipation for weeks before a letter came in the mail. It felt like I was opening an acceptance letter from Harvard. I can’t do it! I told my mother. You look! I said this with a feigned humility that would allow me the opportunity to appear shocked and honored when she announced that I had made the program. Maybe the letter would even say that I had a genius IQ. I mean, after all, the shoe prints!

She carefully opened the envelope and read in silence. Then she sadly reached out and patted my shoulder. I was confused. I snatched the letter from her hand and read the unbelievable words for myself: At this time, Melissa has not been identified as Gifted and Talented. Yes, I actually have received a letter in my life that confirmed beyond any doubt that I am actually not gifted OR talented.

As you might imagine, it took some time for me to recover from this revelation. It was the first in a long series of events in my life that allowed me to see that, despite my notions that I was a closet genius, I am actually just a girl of fairly average intelligence. The lesson hit hard later when I came face to face with geometry for the first time. And again when I went to grad school and realized that I was easily the most confused person in the room on most days.

And, guess who was crowned Miss Gifted and Talented of Small Town Texas that year? Chicken picture girl. And, you know what? I think they were right. And, I’ll bet she guessed slightly less than a million on the miles around the earth question.

I spent years of my life believing that I was a genius when I wasn’t. Sure, most of those years were spent in diapers or at recess, but still. I thought that my brain was something special. And, I think we all have things about us that we wonder why God made us this way or why He didn’t make us that way. But, you know what I learned about God when I found out that I am “officially” ungifted and untalented? I learned that He could make impossible things possible. I learned that He could turn us into whatever He wants us to be. And, I learned that I don’t have to be the best at everything to be who He has called me to be.

He designed some people to be geniuses. Me, not so much. But, He did give me other abilities. And He HAS gifted me with talents that I can use to glorify His name. Even if those talents don’t pertain to shoe print pictures.

God makes us unique and makes us for specific jobs. So, when we are disappointed by how we turned out, we can take heart and know that He has a perfect plan, and He is trustworthy. I mean, if we all drew chicken pictures the world would be a boring place. Let your special gifts glorify His name, and don’t compare talents. You are meant for something unique.

So, no. I never claimed the title of Gifted and Talented. But, I did manage to become God’s daughter somewhere along the way, and now I let Him tell me who I am. And occasionally I still scoff at the chicken picture. I mean, come on. Shoe prints!

The Olney Enterprise

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Olney, Texas 76374

Phone: (940) 564-5558

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