With today’s post, we start with a story from The Reverend…
My older son surprised me recently when, out of the blue, he sent me the following text: “Do you like the music of Marc Cohn?” My text response was, “My all-time favorite. His first CD with ‘Walking in Memphis’ was (three fire emojis).” A nostalgic conversation ensued about some of the musical influences from my own childhood like Marc Cohn, Bruce Hornsby, Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass.
I was tickled that my creative, music-loving son was discovering that his father’s music wasn’t as bad as he thought. I spent the rest of that day with some of my old favorites playing in the background. One of those songs seemed to call out to something deep inside of me. The song by Marc Cohn is entitled “The Things We’ve Handed Down.” One of the verses goes like this…
Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I’ve heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down
I was confronted again with the sacred trust that is my life. That we have all been given a unique set of gifts, talents, passions and inclinations…the things handed down. There is no one else in the whole world with our fingerprint, our design. Remember that old adage, “If you aspire to be someone else you will fail. The world already has them. The world needs you.”
It’s why it makes a whole lot of sense to refer to them as gifts because we have been wired to find our deepest joy, our most enduring fulfilment, and our most authentic, fully-realized self when we live in the wheelhouse of our gifts and offer them to the world.
In religious circles we use the term “stewards” to describe our relationship to our gifts. A steward is someone who manages or administrates someone else’s property, finances, affairs, etc. Even if the word sounds a bit antiquated, it captures a breathtaking conviction for us—that we are caretakers of these gifts, and that they have been entrusted to us alone. One of the harder ideas for us to grasp is that these gifts don’t belong to us. One day they will all be returned to their rightful owner.
Whether or not one is a person of faith, there is powerful motivation in the desire to make the most of our lives for a higher purpose. Whether that purpose is to offer our gifts to serve others or to make the world a better place, our souls become enriched and our hearts filled up. What a joy it is to give away the things we’ve been handed down.
Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?