Updated: Jul 22
If there is one thing I have learned over the past year, it is that I am not an expert about anything (really) in particular. Now to be clear: I am deeply grateful for my collegiate and graduate studies, and I would like to think I have sufficient skill sets to at least adequately fulfill my job description. Yet “closing” and then “reopening” a nonprofit organization (Church of Our Saviour) during a pandemic has highlighted for me that at a basic human level I am making it all up as I go along, much more often than I am aware.
Perhaps, that is a realization I—and we—could benefit from as our lives return to some sense of normalcy. Over my lifetime, I have been taught consciously and unconsciously that expertise is a commodity to be acquired, owned and even traded. In recent times, if I want to learn about history, I do not need to ask a historian, because I have the internet. With minimal research I can brew my own beer, grow my own vegetables and bake my own bread from my sourdough starter. But in my professional life, I get paid to do a set number of things that individuals without my background and training are not even allowed to attempt, because I am understood to be an expert.
For myself, I take effort to ensure that whatever investment I or others have previously made in my receiving expertise is not squandered. Recently, I have thought a lot about the idea of giftedness instead of expertise. We all have giftedness in some area or other. When we think of our giftedness as some sort of expertise, we draw boundaries around that expertise in order to preserve and protect it.
Conversely, when I am able to understand that I am lacking in some gifts but not in others, I’m also more apt to ask for help or to offer assistance. I am also able to understand how interconnected I am to my fellow sister or brother. Perhaps most important, when I do not understand myself to have ownership of a skill set or a corpus of information, the entire experience of sharing sets me free, because I don’t see myself as losing property but rather investing in the people around me: I am investing in relationships. What gifts might you share in your orbit?