Friday, March 03, 2006

Mrs. Hall, my English teacher in High School was quite an idealist, if not abit eccentric and snobbish at times. She read and interpreted Shakespeare, Forest and Bradbury with great passion and brevity. She was often impatient and she would vocally reprimand when we were disrespectful in class – which seemed to happen everytime we had class. One time the class studied creative writing, and Mrs. Hall gave us an assignment to do for homework - to write our own piece of creative writing. My classmates would groan and complain, and silently whisper the “F” word in protest.

That night before going to sleep, I took out my pencil and began crafting my two page homework. I wrote, rewrote, rubbed out and rewrote my homework. I’m a perfectionist, and when my passion gets stirred up I do something until it’s done perfectly. I don’t settle for good. What could have being a 30 minute assignment took me 6 hours to complete. I was exhausted and tired, but I was happy at my writing.

When class resumed again, Mrs. Hall asked for volunteers to read their homework. As always, no one put up their hand to volunteer and no one wanted to be picked. And as always she picked me to go first, but since I had a soft voice, she took my piece of writing and read it out to the class. There were several minutes of silence as the class listened intently to what I wrote. And afterwards, there was a lot of amazement followed by disbelief. The kids said that the writing was too good to be my work, and that I had taken a short cut and copied it from some other book or article. Mrs. Hall kept her opinions to her self, and after that day we never spoke of it again. But she did say a few things to encourage me after class:

Mrs. Hall: Toby, I just wanted to say I think your writing is pretty good.
Toby: Uh … really?
Mrs. Hall: Yes, I think it’s excellent!
Toby: None of the other kids thinks its any good.
Mrs. Hall: I think its ok. My only comment is that some of the words...well they're not in the dictionary.
Toby: I know, my spelling is lousy and I kinda made some of them up.

Mrs. Hall went on to suggest to me that I should take up writing, or enter some competition to hone my writing skills. I don't know know if she meant that as an encouragement or for me to work on improving my spelling. In any case, I never did. Perhaps it was the discouragement I received from my classmates, but I never wrote another piece of creative writing again. The only writing I did do were reports, memos, spreadsheets and the like. Anything that is work related or practical, but never in any artistic or creative form.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar life experience. You’ve met with disappointment, failure and more failure until… you put on hold or switch off your God given talents. Maybe your ego got bruised or hurt by similar childhood experiences like I did, but instead of dealing with it, you ran away from it or suppressed. You neglected to talk about it or deal with it, until eventually your heart gets numbed.
The truth is, you can't find your away amongst the crowd if you’re suppressing your individuality. True spirituality is a gift, an individual gift. Something good that God has given you to enjoy and to share with others. Maybe its writing creatively, maybe its fixing a broken down car, or maybe its collecting stamps. Whatever you enjoy doing, consider it a talent. You don’t have to be excellent at it, you don’t have to know everything there is to know about it. And certainly others don’t have to know about it. But one thing you must do well is this … you must enjoy using your talent. Use your talent, enjoy it and serve God with it, serve others with it. Its what makes life worth living… it’s your source of continual joy and inspiration… and its bringing out true spirituality in you.

When I latter became a Christian at the age of 18, I started to write my thoughts about God in a Quiet Time Journal. It was an enjoyable experience as I learnt about God, life and love. Perhaps its remembering that experience, that now, 17 years latter after my High School experience that I begin writing again. But this time it’s personal, and there’s a different set of reasons. I want to write to share with you about my spiritual journey, about God, about life, about thinking, about Philosophy, about parenthood … and everything else conceivable about the subject of spirituality. As I write and update this blog, I hope to share with you my own spiritual journey and learnings. Thanks for taking the journey with me.