Voicing the Gift

*all names in this piece have been changed

Voicing The Gift

My first teaching position was a bit unusual. Because a full time teacher was not needed at either school in the district, I worked half-day at the high school and half-day at the elementary school. That was the nice thing about my special education degree; it encompassed grades kindergarten through twelfth. Oh wait … except I didn’t actually have my special education degree (yet). That is how scarce the supply of special education teachers was at the time. But with an elementary education degree in hand and a commitment to obtain my master’s degree in special education, I was able to accept the position.

So there I was, a teacher of big kids with learning and behavioral problems and a teacher of little kids with learning and behavioral problems. I wasn’t quite sure what to do at either end of the spectrum. But despite my lack of training, I had worked with kids long enough to know I was good at one thing: listening. I knew from experience that if an adult acted the slightest bit interested, kids (no matter what age) generally liked to talk.

So I started asking questions. From those questions, I obtained quite a bit of information. At the high school I learned …

Eric* liked to repair cars. With incredible patience, I listened to him talk about active suspensions, air pumps, inhibitors, and injectors.

Michael liked to farm with his dad. It took all my strength to stay focused when he described field crops, hilling, tillage, and sprigging.

Carly liked to bake cakes and decorate them. Now this was one topic I could talk about all day. I managed to contain my drool when she told me about her buttercream icing, the Chiffon Method, figure piping, and fondant.

At the elementary school I learned …

Max liked Pokemon. I would like to say I became educated on moves like subpuncher, sunnybeamer, trickbander, and boltbeam, but the more I learned the more confused I became.

Tom liked dinosaurs. He taught me more about the Mesozoic Era than I ever wanted to know—although he preferred to call it the “Age of Reptiles” which was a little more my speed. His enthusiasm for violent predators was definitely not contagious.

Julie liked to read. When I got her to look up from her books long enough, she told me the plots to all her favorite books, like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Charlotte’s Web. Now that was discussion I thoroughly enjoyed.

It didn’t take me long to realize that if I centered my lessons around each child’s specific interests, things would go a lot better. Over time, there were less chairs being thrown, less curse words being said, less refusals to complete work, and less defiance overall.

So I continued asking about car repair, farming, and cake decorating at the high school. I requested more information on Pokemon, dinosaurs, and literature from the “experts” at the elementary school. Rarely did their interests waver and rarely did the kids not want to talk about what so clearly excited them.

About mid-school year, something amazing happened. One of the interests was unexpectedly brought to school. It was on my birthday. Carly walked into the classroom proudly carrying the most beautiful light pink cake. It had basket weave icing worthy of a royal wedding. Her cake tasted divine. I had to know how she made it so moist. She walked to the front of the classroom and whispered her pudding secret in my ear. When she did, I looked into her beautiful green eyes and said, “Carly, you have a gift. You are a cake baker extraordinaire. Please don’t ever stop baking and decorating!”

Shortly thereafter, Eric brought me some pictures. He wanted to show me how he refurbished an entire car. I am no auto expert, but I can tell the difference between a remarkable “before” and “after” picture. I said, “Now wait a minute, let me get this straight. No one taught you this? You just figured it out?”

Eric beamed and told me (again) the story of how he came to work on cars and how he used his granddad’s tools for all his jobs. He knew it was easy to impress someone who admitted that she got a little baffled when it came time to check the oil, but he liked to hear my opinion. And my opinion was this: “Eric, this is your gift. You are going to make lots of people happy by fixing up their cars!”

Eventually I was able to hold each one of Michael’s 4-H agriculture medals in my hand. He was a farmer through and through, and a darn good one. I knew he would grow delicious crops for his family and for the world. Farming was Michael’s gift, so I told him so.

Once these gifts were voiced, I noticed a remarkable change. When my students walked through the halls between classes, there was less cowering. Rather than clinging to the wall as if they were invisible, they walked along with at least one companion. They weren’t afraid to talk. They had something to say. I even detected slight smiles on faces that I thought would never show much joy. The declared “gift” seemed to have created an invisible shield of confidence and self-assurance—as if  knowing they had “it” made an impact in the way my students walked, talked, and carried themselves through life.

I decided I must also voice the gifts of the little people.

I told Max that I didn’t know anyone in the world who knew so much about Pokemon. I said, “Do you think we should let your classmates know about your gift? That way, if they have any questions about Pokemon, they can come to you.”

I will never forget when Max stood in front of his class and gave them a tutorial on Pokemon. One by one, they came forward asking questions. He knew all the answers. He quickly became the Pokeman Master. I reminded him that it was his gift, but he told me he already knew.

Julie was asked if she would help some struggling readers in first grade. I said, “You know, reading is your gift. Not everyone has such a gift. Would you help some little kids with reading on Wednesdays at 10:00?”

Julie tried not to smile at the prospect, but she couldn’t help it. Wednesdays became her favorite day. There were no behavior issues from Julie on Wednesday. She loved using her gift to help others.

Tom got to make a dinosaur diorama to show the class. It was so good, he was asked to show many different classes.  He confided in me that he always wished he was a dinosaur, or at least a lizard, so he didn’t have to talk to anyone. But that day, he said he was glad he was Tom.

“I am glad you are Tom, too,” I responded. “Because the world needs to know about these amazing creatures—and no one knows them quite like you do.”

From that point, I became a big believer in voicing the gifts—to acknowledge and celebrate a person’s natural talents that are visible from an outside perspective. It saddened me to think about all the special abilities that were overlooked and minimized by being regarded merely as “interests.” I vowed to always voice the gifts that I saw.

Fast-forward nine years …

I was sitting side-by-side with my six-year-old as she practiced her ukulele and sang “Happy Girl” by Martina McBride. I thought she sounded lovely so I said, “I love to hear you sing.”


Her face immediately broke into a smile, but then it quickly turned to worry. “But I am also really good at swimming. So which one is my … my …. “ I knew exactly what word she was looking for.

“Gift?” I offered.

“Yes! Which one is my gift? Swimming or ukulele singing?” my child earnestly inquired.

I leaned in as if I had the most wonderful secret in the world. “Some people have more than one gift!”

“Then which one do you use?” she asked with genuine concern.

“Well, I think you try to use all your gifts if you can, and if they conflict, you pick the gift that you most love to do.” With a gentle touch on her arm, I added, “You don’t have to decide right now.”

That response seemed to satisfy her. She picked up her ukulele and strummed, happily relishing one of her multiple God-given gifts.

That’s when I remembered when I was first told of my gift. I was eight. The teacher told the class to write a story. When it was time to stop, I felt sad. I wanted to keep writing. I carried up several sheets of paper containing a real story about my cat. The story described little details that some might overlook or find boring, but these small details made my heart feel good to write about.

I told my teacher, “It’s not finished yet. May I have more time?”

My teacher gave me extra time that day, and the next day, and for months she gave me extra time to write my stories.

One day, after giving me extra time, Miss Paluska looked me in the eyes and said, “Writing is your gift, Rachel. I hope you will never stop writing.”

I felt like she placed a golden crown on my head. Suddenly I had a purpose: I was a writer.

Like Carly , Eric, Michael, Max, Julie, and Tom, those words shaped me; they stuck with me. When I felt lost, or when I thought I had no friends, or when I failed in other areas of my life, I had something to hold on to. Like a security blanket tucked close to my chin, I had my gift. Miss Paluska had said so. And I’ll never forget how she sounded when she said it.

So forgive me if I get a little teary when you leave a comment that says, “Please don’t stop writing, Rachel.”

Because I am a big believer in voicing the gifts.

If you see one in a child, a teen, or even an adult, I hope you will say so.

And if you’re not sure what gift lies within, ask a question. Ask them what they like to do or what they like to know about. Then watch. Do their eyes light up when they talk about it? Do they love to show you what they can do? Could they talk about it all day long and never grow tired of it?

If so, let them talk … let them show.

You might be the first one who’s ever asked. You might be the first one to say it out loud.

Because if you are blessed to be that person – the person who says “you have a gift” – just know they will carry your words in their hearts for the rest of their lives.

And I guarantee, those words will save them a time or two.




Taking time to see and acknowledge the gifts in another human being is a simple way to grasp what really matters in a world of distraction—and it is something we can all do today. 

Feel free to share your “gift” stories. I cherish the comments and insights of this community. We can learn so much from each other. Thank you for being a part of The Hands Free Revolution. Let us continue our journey looking for the gifts in the little and big people around us today. 





  1. 1

    Susie Thrush says

    As I am sitting here struggling to write a school paper, please let me reaffirm that you do have a gift. Thank you for using it, and please don’t stop. 🙂

  2. 5

    Gena Gideons says

    Thank you so much for these posts! I work with young moms who are mostly single and have had really rough lives. It’s very hard for them to raise their children in the most positive way when they don’t even know what that’s suppose to look like. I hope you don’t mind if I use some of your articles to encourage them in their parenting skills. They really need to hear this information. You have the gift of encouragement!

    • 6


      Gena, thank you for what you are doing for the young mothers and their children. I would be honored if you share my articles with the mothers. That is exactly why I write. With each post, it is my hope to touch one life. Thank you for helping parents find ways to connect with their children. I am thankful for your message today, Gena. It brings such hope.

  3. 7

    Shirley says

    yes, this is your gift indeed! i read your entries and each time i do i am filled with many, good, different emotions. you make me want to do more. give more. try harder. your words connect with me. you are passionate and it shows in your writing. i laugh. i cry. you touch my heart. i thank you SO much for that!

    my gift, from God, is my voice. i love to sing. i love to sing for others. it makes me SO happy and i believe i have made others happy too when i have sang. i have made people laugh, cry and dance. i have won awards and have had the privilage to record some songs. i have been given amazing comments, one that personally sticks out for me was from the singer Susan Aglukark. i will never forget it! she said that i had an amazing, powerful voice. the fact that Susan came up to me to say this, spoke volumes too!

    i was told at a young age that my voice was a gift, from God. i have never stopped singing and never will. xo

    • 8


      Thank you for sharing your own beautiful gift experience with us, Shirley! I am always a bit awestruck (and a bit envious) of those with a beautiful singing voice. I am thrilled to hear that you are able to use yours so much and touch the lives of others with it. I am so glad you won’t ever stop singing!

  4. 11

    WiscoMom says

    oh this one really did it to me…here is my story: as a young child and all through elementary school and even highschool I loved to draw and paint. My classmates all knew I was “good at it” but my mother (and father) never said a word (my takeaway on that was “well, it’s a nice hobby”). Then I went to college to study something “practical” so I could have a career. Art certainly didn’t fall into that category. Artists didn’t make any money. How could I spend all of this money (their money) learning to be something that wouldn’t make any money? I took a drawing class my freshman year but due to the heavy workload (that drawing class had more homework than many of my other classes combined) and conflicts with my academic classes I dropped the class about half way through the semester. The next year a co-worker said to me: I had no idea you were an artist!? The shocked look on my face must’ve prompted her to continue…and she explained how she was currently taking at intro drawing class at the same college and the professor had been showing the class slides of my drawings as part of the “examples” of what to do. All I could think was: why didn’t that prof tell me I was THAT good….if she would’ve said just one small thing when I handed her my form to drop the class I probably would’ve stayed and would now be the artist I have always wanted to become…instead of struggling with the “what is my gift?” question at age 37. Your story today is so perfect Rachel. I can’t stress enough how important it is to recognize what makes your child “shine” and tell them that you believe in that gift they have. It really can make a huge difference. I am so glad that someone recognized your gift and told you about it and even though you have spent time doing other things you are now right back to where you were meant to be. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us. Thank you for giving us hope and reminding us to use our gifts.

  5. 16


    YES! I will never forget a former kindergarten student who was an expert on Sting Rays. I learned more about Sting Rays that year than I ever imagined I would in an entire lifetime, and I have no doubt that her “gift” will carry her through her life. I pray she continues to come in contact with educators and mentors who value her passions and encourage her to grab on and enjoy the ride. Thank you for this fabulous reminder that we all have a gift or two and that children (young and old) especially need to be reminded of this.

  6. 18

    Amber says

    Beautifully written. I can already tell you my oldest child’s gift is art and my middle child’s is making people laugh… my youngest is 9 months so right now it is just making her Mom and Dad’s heart melt. 🙂

  7. 20

    GG says

    This post is a gift to me – thank you thank you thank you for writing and inspiring with each and every thoughtful post. I am amazed every single time at how your stories hit me straight through to the heart. Every. Single. Time. So glad you are sharing your gift with the world!! So lucky that I am a receiver of your gift. I only wish I could figure out my own gift and reciprocate.

    • 21


      Thank you for such kind words. You seem to be a great encourager. You have left me the nicest comments. I am certain encouragement is one of your gifts. Keep looking, I am sure there are many, many more.

  8. 22

    M.O'Herlihy says

    Thanks so much for that entry. I am a school teacher but am on “hiatus” to raise my boys..I haven’t been teaching since my eldest was born…11 years ago! My “baby” is now 7 so I’m starting to feel like I’ll go back to it sooner rather than later. This piece reminded me of one of the aspects of teaching that I so enjoy – being given the opportunity to touch a child’s life in such a way that they remember it for the rest of their lives. Thanks for that!

  9. 23

    Christy J says

    You are such a talented person in so many ways. Not only are you a wonderful writer, able to take the most ordinary, mundane things and make them into something beautiful and timeless, something that makes others recognize them for the exquisite moments in time that they are, but you also obviously have a gigantic heart. Teachers of children with special needs have to have a special heart and soul to be effective. As a mother of 5, two of whom are on the autistic spectrum (one is 18, one is 3) I can appreciate the capacity you have to love and teach these children. A great teacher, one who genuinely cares about the children she teaches, is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. Having a teacher believe in you can change your life. My oldest (the 18 year old) was going into 10th grade and just couldn’t find his “thing”, his niche. He felt a little lost I think. Until his chorus teacher came along. He was already a good musician, but she gave her own time and energy (she is in her 70’s) to help him and push him and tell him he has a “gift”. He truly does, he is now an amazing singer and musician and plays regularly in local venues and is quickly becoming a crowd favorite. I am so grateful to people like you and Mrs. Stanford, and Mrs. Fuller (my 3 yo’s preschool teacher who is phenomenal also) who really take the time to understand these special children and find a way to communicate with them effectively, who are willing to help them find that “gift” and use it to their fullest ability. So, if you haven’t been able to see the results of the “gifts” that you gave these children when you did this for them, please accept a thank you from the bottom of my heart for them and their parents, because to them, you were the “gift”.

    • 24


      Thank you, Christy. I am a crying mess because of your heartfelt words, but they are happy, grateful tears. I have been blessed to know the gifts of my students’ parents. I consider them angels on earth. You sound like a very special person. I am blessed that you read my posts and find value in them. Thank you for taking the time to comment. You added a huge bright spot to my day.

  10. 25


    I will always be grateful to the colleague who said with great conviction, as she turned the pages of a sermon I’d written, “You are a good writer, Amy Zucker.” I had been writing for years, and she wasn’t the first person to tell me I had a gift for writing, but I had lots of insecurities. Her voice still echoes when I’m banging my head against the screen in one of those “nothing I have to say is worth saying” moments. Thanks, Johanna.

  11. 27

    Karin says

    You use words in such a meaningful way. Thank you for sharing your writing with us. It inspires me to be a better fosterparent to the children in my care. I believe my job is building their toolboxes for what the world will throw at them; and helping them define their strengths (gifts) is always one of my goals. It builds their confidence. Thanks again.

    • 28


      What a lovely thought: “I believe my job is building their toolboxes for what the world will throw at them; and helping them define their strengths (gifts) is always one of my goals.” Thank you, Karin, for what you do for some very special children. And thank you for sharing your insights with us.

  12. 29

    Elaine Snively says

    Yes, please keep writing.
    My brother once said to me, after I had stopped writing for a time, “Do yourself a favor, Elaine, get a journal. From that point on, I was writing again. He writes, too, and sends me two poems everyday.

  13. 31

    Jennifer says

    Years ago my best friend and I were secretaries at a large law firm. I had 3 young children and 3 very different birthing experiences. I knew the difference between having a good obstectric nurse and a poor one. My friend, dissatisfied with life as a legal assistant, went to college at night to become a nurse, while we continued to work together. I encouraged her to specialize in obstectrics, explaining that her calm and comforting nature and sublime sense of humor would be remarkable “gifts” in the delivery room. She excelled in school, and I cried proud tears when I watched her march to receive her diploma. Not only did she become a nurse, she specialized in obstectrics and has become a wonderful, “gifted” labor and delivery nurse. She frequently receives cards and gifts of thanks from grateful parents and accolades from hospital administration. She often receives invitations to the birthday parties of the babies she’s brought into the world. She has not only celebrated many miracles, she has comforted young parents through unspeakable tragedy. She always reminds me how I identified her “gift” and encouraged her to foster it. I’m so glad I did. She gave me a gift too – she referred me to your HandsFree Journey and I have come along for the ride. Don’t stop writing!! I won’t stop reading.

    • 32


      Oh my gosh, this is a BEAUTIFUL story! Jennifer, what a good friend you are. And how lovely that your best friend recognizes what you did for her. How beautiful that she is the reason you are here, reading, commenting, and sharing this journey with me. I am grateful for both of you!

  14. 33

    Kendra Koch says

    Rachel, this just made me cry. Not only is it a beautiful story, but because I actually knew you in those days and you, you are the gift. Everyone that knew you then (and I’m sure those that know you now) know what a gift you are. Thanks for being an awesome tennis coach, special ed teacher, gift giver, courageous Mom, and so much more. xoxo

    • 34


      Oh my goodness, what an unexpected gift to hear from you, Kendra. As I wrote this post, I thought of all my special tennis players and also the students I met being “jr. class sponsor.” You were among the bright, compassionate, funny, and kind students that made my first year of teaching so memorable. You also made me feel young again! What I wouldn’t do to hang out with you and some of your adorable friends. I love you, Kendra! Thank you for leaving an imprint on my heart.

  15. 35


    As I read the article I was thinking and wondering- do I ever do that? And then it struck me, something I have been doing for several years was a kind of universal recognition of the gifts each of us have.
    A few years ago I designed a little card http://tinyurl.com/aers2gc (this is the url for it on flickr) It is a smiley face of my design with the words “thank you for your smile”. If I don’t have any in my pocket I will tell them about the card and tell them that I owe them one. I do that often on the phone as well.
    What an amazing thing it is. Many times when I have handed one to a clerk in a store it is like I handed them a huge tip. It rarely fails to bring another smile and that change in posture and tone of voice that says, “wow, someone noticed me and I really am worthy of notice.”
    Honestly, I consider this a kind of “holy” selfishness. Every time I put out that positive energy I get so much more than I ever gave. It is easy to get addicted to this, and just want more and more, and the wonderful thing is that unlike so many things in this world it is totally free.
    Thank you for your smile Rachel. 🙂

    • 36


      Oh Robert, your gift to the world is so apparent! You are a gift to everyone you meet. I knew that the minute you posted on the Hands Free Revolution page many, many months ago with such kind and encouraging words for me. Your smile cards are exactly what the world needs. I have no doubt you have touched MANY lives. Please keep shining your light, Robert. It is a glorious sight.

  16. 39

    Heather says

    Thank you so much for writing this. I work with at-risk behavioral kids, ages 4-17, and I can’t tell you how many times I wonder if I make a difference…This reminds me once again to speak life over my kids, and rekindles compassion for them, to see who they’ve been created to be. 🙂

  17. 41

    Debi says

    One of the things that makes me so sad is how much harder this is to do with my students today then it was just a few short years ago. Today’s schools are so focused on numbers and test scores and standards and all that nonsense that so often it seems teachers forget that we really work with children. Children who twenty years from now will not remember my lessons on phonics and arithmetic and writing sentences. But, I do hope they remember my smile, and my enthusiasm for their ideas and the fun we have in class. But, that is missing in so many classrooms these days. It is so much harder to focus on finding a child’s “gift” when so much emphasis is forced on us making sure they pass that test…

  18. 43

    T Hopkins says

    I love this post and everything you’ve said, Rachel. And I believe in it 150%. But I don’t limit that encouragement to the young ones. I can find something positive and uplifting to say to anyone I meet, in person or online. It is my joy in life to see the gifts in others and to tell them so–and to see their faces light up, young and old, and in-between. They walk taller. They smile more. And when it sinks in, to their heart and psyche, they do even greater things. Some years ago I heard a saying that stuck with me in regard to raising children: Catch them being good. That’s what you focus on and that’s what grows.
    BRAVO to you and to all those whose lives you touch with YOUR special gift. It’s quite evident what that is. 🙂

  19. 45


    This is, once again, a beautiful post! I believe in your message. However, can you provide some advice as to how to help a child who really and truly hasn’t discovered their talent or gift? A little girl I fostered had experienced so much hurt and so little encouragement that it was a very long road for us to begin to uncover some of her potential gifts. It was far beyond the usual question-asking that probably works with most children. I’d love to hear any advice you have for that process.

    • 46


      Thank you for asking. For many years, I worked with children that had incredibly challenging home lives and had endured much heartache. With those children, I tried to expose them to as many new experiences as I could. Even simple every day activities were things they had never done or been exposed to. I tried to take them to new places in the community that they had never visited. These experiences opened the world to these children. They found things that interested them on their own. I did not push them into trying anything — I just let them do it on their own time. This post talks about this experience:

      How to Build Up a Child – http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/12/04/how-to-build-up-a-child/

  20. 47


    This reminds me quickly of all the people who ever believed in me, encouraged me, and helped me to soar. So many teachers, mentors, friends, and loved ones who told me I had various gifts, from their perspectives, and each one of them made a difference.
    Much love! A wonderful post, just like you.
    (Keep writing and writing and writing – no one can give the Hands Free message like you can, my friend)

  21. 51

    Nancy Barrett says

    A beautiful story, beautifully written. It’s so amazing what can be accomplished when we actually take a few minutes and truly see the people that we interact with every day.

  22. 53

    Brenda says

    Thank you for such a gorgeous post! I am the mom of a special need son who is 15 years old and he loves classic cars, exotic cars and really cars of all kinds. Very talented in this area – and it makes his heart sing. I am just easing into running with him every night when we get home from work/school and he is a wonderful runner too. When God allowed me to adopt this precious young man when he was only 13 pounds at 13 months, I am HAPPY BEYOND BELIEF that I did not stop to consider what his limitations might be.

    Thank you and may God bless you for being that special teacher who made sure students like my son know that they have value and that they have a gift, maybe several!

    You are such an inspiration to me. Thank you for refocusing me on what really matters in life.

    • 54


      Brenda, you have put the biggest smile on my face. What a special mom you are! Your attitude is beautiful, inspiring, and gives me SO much hope! May God bless you, too. So honored to have you here spreading your beautiful light.

  23. 59


    So glad you are still writing…you always manage to bring tears to my eyes 🙂
    Funny little side-anecdote – I was working with an adorable little boy in kindergarten yesterday, who is on the autism spectrum. He has a wild imagination, and we were trying to get him to focus to write a story (2-3 sentences). I had to keep reminding myself about his “literal nature” because I would ask him, “Can you write the letter ‘w’ for me?” And he would proudly smile and say, “Yup.” [Pause] And then I would remember that what I REALLY needed to say was, “Please write the letter ‘w’ right here.” [Same smile] “OK.” And he would write it. I guess the simple lesson there is that we should always choose our words carefully. You always seem to choose yours beautifully 🙂

  24. 61

    Elaine D says

    As an English teacher of 11th and 12th graders, I needed this reminder. It is far too easy to get caught up in the requirements and the mandates.
    I am currently taking your advice and doing this with my own children, but I need to do it with my 198 “big kids” too. They deserve this as much as my daughters. Thank you for reminding me, thank you for inspiring me.

  25. 63

    Nicole says

    Thank you for sharing your gift of writing! Your words are inspiring and give life, love and heart to moments that seem to be meaningless. Thank you for sharing your gift of perspective. I really appreciate when others share their experiences (and perspective) so that I may look differently at my own experiences and learn to appreciate them.

  26. 65


    I’m in love with your blog! The way you write..it’s beautiful! A friend introduced me to your blog a few days ago and I’ve been reading non-stop. After the first lunch hour of reading, I went home that night and turned the cell phone off, turned off my son’s xbox and just had family time. AND, that night we did the “find the heartbeat”. We did that with smiles and giggles! You’re a great writer, please never stop….you make me want to try harder at being a better mom, a better listener, and just slowing down the moment. 🙂 I don’t have a lot of people that read my blog but I mentioned you in my latest post. I hope my friends and family that read my blog start reading yours. Have a super weekend!

    • 66


      This is amazing and wonderful to me, Kelly. I am so grateful to know my blog posts have had such an impact on your life! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. You are making some incredible changes in your life! What a gift you are giving your family. I am so inspired by you.

  27. 67


    Hi Rachel,
    I very much agree with your teacher that writing is your gift, I also agree with you that you can have more than one because you do. Your second gift is your extreme kindness. You could easily write away in a journal and never share the intimacies of your journey, but I’m so very thankful that you decided to put it out there instead.
    My face is covered in tears, this is a natural occurrence every time I read your words. Your page is like a shelter for me, a place I run to when my walls are caving in. Your words build me back up, they pat me on the back and hug me like a close friend. I really needed your words today, thank you for sharing your gift, and please please please don’t ever stop writing!

  28. 69

    Paula Caston says

    When I was in 5th grade (38 years ago), I had a teacher tell me that I was horrible at art and that it was definitely not my gift. I knew that my drawings weren’t like that of my peers but to hear such ugly words from a teacher was very painful. Over the years, I have been told many times that encouragement is my gift. I truly believe that God granted me that tough moment all those years ago in order to use it for good!! BTW, I still can’t draw very well but my art manifests itself in ways that bring me and my family so much joy!

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  29. 70


    Oh, Rachel, every time I get discouraged in my own blogging efforts I find strength in your ability to so clearly convey what matters most in each of your posts. You have a gift for recognizing the long-lasting in life and helping us to see it, too.

  30. 71


    This ability to discover one’s passion, and to find the space to fully explore it is so important–and the fact that most schools today don’t provide this space is really, really sad.

    It’s one of the reasons I’m so happy I found a good Montessori school for my children: I love knowing that whenever my daughter gets immersed in a project (today: making a book with all she learned by researching Australia), she’ll have all the time she wants to finish it. No bell will ring to interrupt; no change of subjects will be required; she won’t be forced to move on because Australia is done and the whole class now needs to move on to studying the planets (or whatever the next all-class lesson is.) Instead, her teachers will observe, notice her interests, and craft her lessons around what makes her excited about learning.

    Wish more children had that opportunity, so discovering and thriving on a gift was the rule, not the exception!

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    Becky says

    When I get an email that you have a new post, I feel so excited to read what you’ve written next! I’m serious when I say that I often leave it in my inbox, unread, until that moment that I can sit still and digest every word. You truly do have a gift and I learn something from you every time you write.

    I am raising my special needs grandson and am always searching for the best way to bring out his abilities rather than focus on his dis-abilities. Please don’t stop writing!

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    Sagi says

    Thank you for writing this post I see that it’s your gift not only to write but to inspire as well.

    I have a little story I would like to share. I am a special education student & went to schools that are specialising in that. For years i wanted to be teacher then a healer or dr & did my B.A. in communication which I didn’t like because it played on my weakness. After finishing my degree my grandma had severe back pain &nothing was helping. I put my hands over the painful area &then put a heated pillow there &it helped. So grandma said that I have a gift in my hands. – something my parents told me growing up but I wasn’t allowed to do it since I ended up in pain – & so grandma took me to see a university that teaches Shiatsu &I fell in love. Now I’m on my second year out of three & I am a teaching assistant to my favorite teacher in the school. My two gifts are combined &it only makes me happier when I wake up in the morning. Giving someone a treatment &seeing them after is an amazing feeling. I made a difference in their lives &I will specialize in children with ADHD & LDs.

    Thank you for this article &for inspiring me.

  33. 75


    What a beautiful story! God has truly given us all gifts and He wants us to use them, too! Just as you made a difference in the lives of those kids, we can make a difference in the lives around us (kids AND adults) by noticing and encouraging them to use their gifts.

    Thank you for sharing YOUR gift of writing with us!

  34. 76


    Thank you so much for sharing your gift! I don’t even remember how I found your blog, and I don’t often keep up, but I always know that there is a bit of inspiration waiting for me when I do wander over.

  35. 77

    Dolores Wilkes says

    I saw your article in the Reader’s Digest today – congratulations!

    I have been reading your amazing blog for over a year but have never commented.

    I finally realized how selfish of me to accept the beauty, the inspiration, the joy you bring me and then not share that with you!

    • 78


      Thank you, Dolores. You are so kind! I cannot wait to receive my copy! It was such an amazing opportunity. How lovely to know you have been with me a whole year! What a faithful companion you are on this journey!

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    vangie says

    touched with this inspiring story you shared. it is beautiful. like me a mom of a four had kids diagnosed with Autism. how amazing i noticed this with my kids especially my eldest. his gifted and love about him is he really loves to sketch & draw. although every persons had a unique personality, talents & abilities. it’s GG- God’s gift.powerful message.

  37. 81

    Sheri says

    I discovered your blog months ago but had not subscribed and therefore forgotten about it. I have been missing out! Love this post and plan to share it with my co-workers in childcare.
    My story:
    I was about ten and in my bible school booklet there was a question about identifying your gift and how to use it to serve others. I was discouraged, I could not sing, draw, dance,etc. I equated gift with performance type talent and felt I did not have one. I honestly do not know if it was a teacher talking to me or another question in the booklet. I just remember thinking the only thing I felt “good” at was talking to littler kids, it is not a “talent” but I guess I could maybe watch people’s kids while they did church stuff. I have spent the last twenty plus years caring for babies and helping parents through that first year. I love sharing my gift to bless others! I “guess” maybe it is a talent after all!

  38. 85

    Lou says

    Yes, Sheri, does have a tremendous gift. I know because I trusted her to care for my newborn baby over 24 years ago! Thank you Sheri! (And Dan, too)

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    Rachel says

    We have two wonderful things in common, we are both Rachels and we both had great teachers who told us that our gift was writing. I was told this several times throughout my school career, and I never once believed my teachers, until one day when my Mother read a paper I had written, and told me that I had a gift that was rare, the ability to articulate emotions into words. I see that this is something that you do beautifully as well. Celebrate your passion and your gift, and continue to share it with your daughters for as long as they will listen. The ability to express ones’ self in prose is a rarity and a jewel in a world that is overwhelmingly losing sight of beauty and replacing it with filler. May your pen always be gliding away and your heart full of tales to share!

    • 88


      Nice to “meet” you, Rachel! It is apparent in your beautiful comment that YOU are a writer! I will keep your beautiful words close to my heart. Thank you for being here and sharing your gift!

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    Judi Gilbert says

    I am the best friend that Jennifer (above) speaks of. I didn’t find out she wrote this until tonite, nearly a month later. I was brought to tears. I have not regretted making a career change at 40 years old for one minute. Delivering babies (aka “hosting “birth-day parties) is my gift. And I share it with each of my patients as if it were my first and last.

    Thank you for sharing your gift with us. It’s nice to have something that my best friend (married for 20 years, with three kids) and I (single, no kids…but hoping) can share. xoxo

  41. 90


    beyond lovely. thank you so much for sharing. reading this I can’t help but wonder if some of those precious children you taught had autism. my little boy is autistic and very young still. we’re just discovering some of his unique gifts and they never cease to amaze and delight me. the joy on his face when he recites his numbers is beautiful. thank you for sharing your gift with us to tell this story. <3

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    Zoe says

    As my little girls grow up, I’m looking forward to seeing them develop their gifts. For myself though, a 32 year old, I still don’t believe I have found my gift. I love seeing gifts in other people but am struggling to see any in myself. Is it possible that some people just don’t have a gift?

    • 92

      Sheridan says

      No I don’t believe that! Everyone has a gift, but yes it is easier to see others than our own. Therefore you need to ask some loved ones who know you well what they see your gift. My husband is always good to remind me of mine when I begin to get down.

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