Everyone has unique, special gift

By Joan Clayton: PNT Religion Columnist

I am convinced that each person on earth has at least one special gift. Thirty-one years of teaching taught me that. Each child I taught had a unique gift and it became my job to discover his or her special talent and build on those strengths.
You may not know you are gifted in some area. The key is to enjoy what you do and do it as well as you can. I call it “giving yourself away.” It is a biblical principle that “to find yourself, you lose yourself,” and you lose yourself by “putting others’ interest above your own.” Philippians 2:4 reminds us of this concept: “Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others” (NCV).
My writing occurred with my first college theme. Dear Professor Ogburn had written across the top: “I don’t know what you’re going to do with this, but do something with it!”
That statement stayed with me. After college graduation, marriage, three little boys and a teaching career, Ogburn’s statement still echoed in my mind. I began to write. I must have spent a fortune in postage in those beginning years. Every rejection tempted me to give up the idea. I thought about papering my office with rejection letters. I stopped getting excited about going to get the mail. I cringed when I recognized a returned manuscript. I looked at magazines with bylines by authors and felt like one big time failure. So I threw in the “writer’s towel.” I decided my calling was not in writing.
One by one, our sons grew up and left the nest. At each one’s departure I fell apart. By the time the last son left, I was one bag of run away emotions. Writing down my feelings became a release for me. It helped me work through my tears and loneliness. Before I knew it, I had written seven doubled spaced pages of memories, humor and love from a mother’s point of view. I entitled it “I Couldn’t Let Go of My Children, So They Let Go of Me.”
Having worked through this milestone of my life, I sent my story to a publisher and they snapped it up right away — in spite of the extra long title. That one incident ignited my fire again. I began to have songs to sing and stories to write. I felt I had found my niche in life. If I could encourage another in this “journey of life,” I would not have lived in vain. I would not have taken up space. I would have made my life count for something! I now experience a deeper level in writing. I no longer seek notoriety and publication. I am experiencing intrinsically something that touches me deeply. In this light, rejections lose importance.
My great-grandmother was a writer. Her poetry and prose about her twelve children is one of my treasured possessions. I cherish one of her statements: “An encourager is a happy writer.” I am one happy writer.
Writing is now in my blood. I can’t help but write. It’s something I’m compelled to do. I still receive rejections. That’s okay. I get acceptances too. I don’t write for money. I would have starved a long time ago doing that.
  This past week I received a “thank you” e-mail from a marine in Iraq. That is my reward. It is something that money cannot buy! I’m so happy at what I do and I want to share it with the world!
You have a God-given gift given especially just for you. Be persistent. Follow your dream. Please share it with the rest of us. The world is waiting to hear from you.
I still remember what dear Professor Ogburn said that first day of college composition class, “Do something with it.”
I’m doing something with it.
“Thank you, Dr. Ogburn!”

Portales resident Joan Clayton is a retired teacher and published author. Her e-mail address is: