What Is Your Gift?

By Ron Ciancutti

My annual physical showed signs of anemia—enough that the doc wanted me to have a unit of iron pumped in—so I was briefly hooked up to an IV. A day or two later, I returned for a follow-up. Vie, the lady who took my blood this time, was a bit older than the other workers who were skipping around the place. She barely spoke until I invited conversation, and even then she was hesitant. “Why you here?” she finally chortled, like an old prison inmate. “Anemia,” I said. “Blood is low on iron.” I explained my numbers and where they needed to be, and she continued her work, extracting six vials of blood. She held one up to the light and said, “Yeah, you’re good—your number should be up a full point.” I smiled. “You can tell that by sight?” She smiled. The male nurse came in and asked for the samples. She handed him three of the six tubes. Then she settled into the chair across from me. I said, “Why didn’t you give him all six vials?” She smiled again, looking out the window. “You’ll thank me in a minute.” Ten minutes later, the nurse returned and said, “Hey, sorry, Vie, we’re gonna need three more vials.” She handed him the three she had previously drawn with a smile, and he shook his head. “Didn’t want to tap this poor man’s arm again,” she said. “You’re the best, Vie,” he said as he left the room. Then he looked at me and said, “Hey, the stat tests show you’re up by a full point.” I looked at Vie and said, “Hey, you’re really something!” She pushed her cart out of the room and said, “Yeah, I used to be. Hope you feel better.”

Skilled Carpenter
I asked my father-in-law, who made his living as a finish carpenter, to have a look at the steps that lead to the second floor in of my house. They’re wooden steps, and there are many of them. It seemed like every night I tripped slightly on this one step. Perhaps the step needed to be shaved a little; perhaps, 90 years ago when the house was built, that step wasn’t set perfectly square, and that oversight was causing my constant misstep. He looked at the step and asked if anyone else seemed to always trip at that spot. I couldn’t recall when anyone had. He asked if I hit the step with and without shoes. Again, I was unsure. A few of the kids were over, and he asked them to go up and down the steps, and they did without difficulty. Per his instruction, I mentally kept track of every time I tripped whenever I was on the steps. But now that I was concentrating, I never tripped again. Time passed and my tripping began again—always more frequent with my work shoes on at the end of the day. Was it the step, the shoes, the construction? No, he determined it was where my body began to tire and I didn’t lift my leg as high going up the stairs after a day’s work. It was actually one of three possible steps, simply a tripping point when I ran out of steam. I think he knew the minute I asked him to look into it, but he let me go through the “steps” to see the light.

Successful Athlete
Bruce was a kid on our high-school wrestling team who was somewhat skilled at the sport, but he had a signature move that wrestlers refer to as “the ankle pick,” which he could do better than anyone else. The move was lightning fast, and he would shoot in with such accuracy that his opponents were always surprised to find themselves on their backs. The move employs a face-to-face lock-up, and then the lock is drawn downwards until the aggressor is in low range of the opponent’s feet. At this point, the aggressor grabs the foot by the heel and pulls it to him, putting the opponent on his back. When done as quickly as Bruce did it, the move threw the other guy completely off his game, and he was typically just glad to get it over with since most other wrestlers were immediately pinned. Well, one night, Bruce had been scouted, so his opponent knew what to expect. As the match began and Bruce went for the lock-up, his opponent threw both feet back so he was leaning into Bruce at an angle, making his ankles inaccessible. They stood like this for the whole first round, circling each other in this lock-up, neither wrestler bringing his feet forward enough to give the other something to grab. The second round began, and again both started circling in the lock-up. Finally a moment of inspiration hit. Bruce exaggerated one of the rocking movements in the lock-up and spun right out of the bind. Now, the opponent’s ankles were accessible, but from the wrong side due to the way the other guy was standing. The reverse ankle pick put the kid right on his face, which stunned him. A quick rollover and Bruce had the pin. It took a while for Bruce to envision it working and then perform it, but once done, it was executed beautifully. He had added a new move to his bag of tricks.

Share The Knowledge
In each of these examples, it’s fairly simple to identify the skill illustrated. The nurse was a wise veteran. She had been around long enough to recognize items and anticipate events. My father-in-law was also wise and despite my request, he didn’t just walk into my house with his saw and sander. He waited to evaluate by asking questions only he might know because of his decades of experience. And Bruce—yes, indeed, he was wise, too, in figuring out an alternative to what had always worked for him. Instead of showing frustration because he couldn’t complete his routine/signature move, he invented an alternative—thus broadening his future options. They all showed creativity, patience, and a willingness to think through a problem.

So, going forward, what should they recognize as their “gifts”?

Vie, the nurse, should know her gift is patience. She teaches others by being right and having them see her wisdom through examples. She should share her gift by encouraging other nurses around her to be aware of some of what she knows. She should inform her grandchildren of the stories she experiences each day, so they can see the path of a leader. Chances are she utilizes the same method when creating in the kitchen or helping her own children plan for their futures, families, and life goals. It is a gift she should share, as it can benefit so many.

My father-in-law is also patient, but his gift is getting people to answer their own questions by laying out examples for them. He taught both of my sons, through trial and error, to swing a hammer properly and remove the same nail they had just driven in. He never raised his voice as he watched them nail their thumbs. He would simply say, “Slow down” or “Work smart, not fast.” His deliberate, careful manner made him a master craftsman, and now my boys both do an imitation of him subconsciously. Before they begin any manual task, they square their shoulders to the job, take a deep breath, and look at what they are about to do. It’s like hitting the “clear” button on the calculator. They reset to zero and take their time, just as Papa does. “Slowly” seems a good word for learning and accomplishing with minimal error. He exemplifies it and they imitate it; eventually, it will become theirs.

And for Bruce—the scrappy wrestling buddy of my youth—his patience manifested itself in an ability to solve problems by taking an alternative path. His gift was observation and then proposing and testing solutions. I ran into him at a high-school reunion a few years later. I wasn’t surprised to learn he had become a civil engineer.

Each of us has been blessed with a totally unique set of gifts. Maybe that gift will affect an entire country like some of the world’s great leaders have done. But the bottom line is that, if we never dig deeply enough to see our gifts and share them, no one will ever benefit, except ourselves or the observer who thinks highly of us and learns by watching. But think how many are denied a cavalcade of ingenuity and creativity that way. Friends, pull your light out from under that basket and let it shine. Your gifts are there to share!

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at ron@northstarpubs.com.