I love speaking to groups, and my own church hosted a “Creative Arts Collective” and asked if I could come up with a story to read, so I wrote, “The loser’s table.”
Everyone I know who speaks professionally says speaking to people you know is much harder than speaking to strangers. I don’t know why that is, but this group is so fun, I wasn’t worried a bit. They laughed in all the right places and got a bit choked up when I did – I always get choked up. Sniff-sniff. They're my people, and I love them.
It was a fun night with art, musical performances, poetry readings and lots of good food. It’s a very talented congregation. Several people asked if I could post this story, so here it is, a tad bit longer than most I write, but when read aloud . . . it goes quickly. Make sure you add a “Moooo” in the appropriate place!
*** Yes, I'm wearing a Van Gogh skirt. You know I love a good theme! hahaha. (seriously, ya' like it?).
The Loser Table
Meanwhile, in the lunchroom at Myrtle Hollow Middle School, Sally Leigh Stropmyer sat alone at the loser's table. At least, that's what she called it. She had just been kicked out of the dance club for stepping on the ankle of Chloe Vanderpool, the lead dancer in the school's tap dance production of Steele Magnolias. It was all a total accident, of course, but Sally Leigh couldn't have felt any worse. It was, after all, the second ankle and third toe Sally Leigh had accidentally tripped over or stomped on in two weeks. Chloe had been understanding and sweet about the whole incident, but Sally Leigh clearly heard others whisper, "Clutz!" "What a clod!" and "Why is she even trying?"
Salley Leigh sat at the lunch table next to her friend, Duncan, who recently adjusted his class schedule so he no longer had to attend art class. After the fire he accidentally started in the kiln, the school board's insurance company refused to allow him back in that wing of the building. "Oh, it's okay," Duncan said, much like Eeyore, "I shouldn't even be in art class to start with. I couldn't even draw a straight line if I tried."
The third student at the loser's table was none other than Mable Jean Morrow, who had played clarinet in the school band for the last year. Her friends were so proud of her. "How's band going?" Sally Leigh asked. "Well, it looks like I won't be in the band next year," she said. "My parents said they'd give me a puppy in exchange for my clarinet." Mable Jean inhaled deeply and said, "You know I've always wanted a hound dog."
The three students sat without saying much, but they all thought the same thing. "I can't do anything right." I can't draw, paint, sculpt, sing, or play the clarinet." "I can't walk across the room without tripping, much less dance across a stage." Duncan broke the sad silent thoughts by saying, "The talent show is next month. That's always fun." "Humph!" Sally Leigh responded. "It's not like any of us have any talent." Indeed, the three friends felt like they couldn't do anything artistic.
Years went by, and Sally Leigh, Duncan, and Mable Jean grew up thinking God gave everyone else creative talent while they were doomed to a life of dullness. But at their class reunion, they recognized creativity isn't always found in the traditional arts. Sometimes creativity doesn’t hang on the wall of a museum or gallery.
Sally Leigh now worked as an occupational therapist in a nursing home and had received awards for her innovative programs that used slow movement exercises to boost cognitive abilities and delay dementia. It was like dancing, without all the tripping and falling. Colleges studied her methods and hired her to teach at seminars nationwide.
Duncan used his experience of starting a fire in the pottery kiln to major in chemistry. Going on to teach high school science, his classes were exciting, and he launched many students into scientific careers.
Mable Jean loved her new hound dog puppy so much she grew up to be a veterinarian. She bought a struggling animal practice from her small town's retiring vet and turned it into a thriving regional veterinary surgical center specializing in both small and large animal care. She was so innovative in her approach to treating livestock that Auburn University named an entire breed of bovines after her.
Creativity isn't always "glitter and glue." It isn't the obvious arts and crafts and museums and stages. Creativity can be the ability to organize a closet or find and rescue a lost child. Creativity can be knowing how to grow beautiful vegetables to share with others or incorporate them into a delicious casserole. Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes and isn't just something that can be performed at a talent show.
We are created in God's image, and God is the ultimate creator, so therefore, we all have creativity running through our veins, whether we've identified yet it or not.
Sally Leigh also discovered a creative talent for bringing people together and organized book clubs, supper clubs, and neighborhood parties that everyone loved. Her creative touch made everyone feel special.
Duncan, the high school teacher, was also a creative listener, and his students loved telling him their problems. He was always able to steer them in the right direction with good advice because he heard tiny details in what they were saying that others often overlooked.
In addition to the prize-winning Mable Jean cows, the celebrated veterinarian also found a creative passion for advising others with their small businesses. It turns out, she had a natural knack for business development which helped many families and organizations in her community.
God knows what creative gifts we need and he also knows exactly when we need them. Gifts are never "late in life." They are always right on time. The Myrtle Hollow Middle School lunchroom was once full of woe and discouragement, but like a garden of small seeds awaiting growth, God knew His gifts would someday grow into something beautiful and fulfilling — and would also bring Him great glory.
He also knows what gifts are in store for you as well.