It was the heartwarming story of Sheldon, a Labrador-retriever mix, that demonstrated what can be done when skills are recognized and channeled in the right direction. Sheldon was in training to become a service dog but despite his attempts to learn the necessary skills, he wasn’t successful. However, trainers noticed that when he caught a whiff of something he was determined to follow its track so they made the decision to transfer him into training to become an arson dog. In that program, Sheldon quickly rose to the top of the class and is now considered a premier accelerant detection canine. He just needed to be where his skills fit.
One of my favorite activities in high school was student council. A friend of mine came on board one year but often neglected to follow through on tasks, leaving many of us feeling annoyed. The following year we were shocked when our teacher-advisor encouraged her to run for office as a social convenor. She was resistant, but eventually agreed and was elected into a role she was very good at. Looking after details was not her thing, but she could pump up a crowd and create excitement. Student council needed both. Our advisor knew she just needed to be where her skills fit.
I can’t be trusted with live vegetation. To be blunt, I tend to kill any plants in my care. It’s not that I don’t want to do right by them. It’s not that I don’t try. It’s just that my efforts don’t have a good outcome. I had a perfect office plant. It had little pink and lavender markings on its leaves and looked great on top of a purple filing cabinet in the room. At least it looked great until I neglected to give it enough water and it died. Later in the year someone gave me a plant with the prettiest little yellow roses. Having learned my lesson, I was determined to water it well and often. It drowned.
My children discovered my lack of green thumb when they were young. One Christmas my daughter gave me three tulips crafted of wood. Her words might have stung had she not been quite so excited as she exclaimed, “Mommy, they are flowers you can’t kill!”
Recently, a dear lady brought a gift to congratulate me on something. It was a plant. Now before you come rushing to my office to rescue it from my clutches, this lady knows me well and it is a plant that requires nothing more than my enjoyment. It needs no special care and is doing extremely well, thank you very much. It fits me. What makes her gift so precious is that she gave me something I can’t do, to celebrate something I can. We had a good laugh and I cherished that.
Activities, groups, clubs and organizations are gearing up again. But before we rush headlong into picking up where we left off before the pandemic, maybe we should take a breath and ask ourselves if we are pursuing the right ones. I’ve experienced the frustration of participating in places where my skills didn’t seem to fit, but I’ve also felt the sense of achievement by being stretched and taking on new challenges.
All of our organizations are experiencing changes. It’s inevitable. So perhaps now is the moment to ask ourselves some questions. Which group might best tap into the interests we are missing the most? Which one would fill us up? Where can we help plant good ideas? Who can we help grow and flourish? We might be the rain that can help a group experiencing a drought, or perhaps be new energy for a group drowning in projects. Maybe there’s an activity you haven’t considered before. There’s no time like right now to get those thoughts sprouting.
The important thing is that we get back out there and get involved with the great people in our arts, culture, sports, church, civic and service groups. Get to know them and what they’re doing. They’ll help you find a fit. I know, because I have experienced it. I can’t wait to get back to the groups I have long been involved with, yet against all better judgment, I’ve even found a spot to help out at the community garden. Yes, live vegetation.
Think of these groups like puzzles. They work best when all the pieces come together and we find the best ways to make them fit. That’s my outlook.