I don’t watch reality TV shows.
Except for American Idol.
I love music. Played classical piano and some guitar in my younger days. And almost every one in my large family plays a musical instrument. So I appreciate a melodic voice, the masterful playing of the strings and notes that soar from the soul.
American Idol has that kind of amazing, genuine talent every week and I’m always in awe. But what I really love are the stories of those brave souls who are auditioning.
If you’ve seen the show at all, you know that each person has a story. Some come from broken homes, were homeless, have disabilities, have had parents or siblings who recently died, or are raising a child as a single parent. And yet, despite these challenges, each has a gift he or she feels compelled to share with the world.
Even as some come closer to making the final rounds, others are cut. And they leave the show heartbroken and in tears. They have a right to be sad. What they don’t seem to understand in their youth, however, is that other opportunities will come.
Or, perhaps, this is not their life path. After all, American Idol is about show business and celebrity and all the trappings that go with it. Some may not be ready for it. Or be ruined by it.
As a writer — and a person who believes Spirit is always with us and guiding us — I understand this process. When our creative work or gift is dismissed, we’re often crushed.
I can’t tell you how many times my novels have been rejected by literary agents. Or my personal essays dismissed by websites or editors. It’s a tough business.
So, after decades of writing, I finally came to this question: Why do I do this?
Many days I’ve thrown up my hands in exasperation and told myself: I don’t want to write anymore. We, who are creative types, often feel like our work is falling into a black hole. Is anyone out there, does anyone care? Perhaps not.
So to answer that question, why do I do this?
I do it because it’s “in” me — part of my nature. I can’t deny who I am. It would be like telling me not to breathe. If any words I write reach or touch anyone, that’s not my business. It’s God’s. I do my part; the Divine does its part.
And when you come down to it, that’s all we can do — our part. We are filled with the gifts given us by the Creator and then, at least as I see it, we give them back to be used for the greater good.
So, no, I may never write a best-selling novel. Or you may never star in a Broadway play. Or paint a masterpiece. Or play guitar like Eric Clapton. The Divine may have other ideas for the best use of our gifts other than our ego-driven agenda.
But each contribution, no matter how small, truly matters.
We are a kaleidoscope of gifts that are meant to prism out onto others and perhaps one small piece will illuminate someone else. Bring laughter. Joy. Hope. Each part is integral to the whole.
Spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson was once asked by an audience participant what he should do to become a famous actor. She asked this young man: What’s stopping you from acting now, even if you’re not famous? She told him: Perform in local community theater. Start a theatre troupe for young people. In other words, if you really want to act, you’ll act whether you become a celebrity or not.
This is not to deny dreams. If you want to become a star in your area of talent, you can do that. But it will take tremendous tenacity, drive, talent — and some luck.
The truth is, many of us will never stand on a stage and perform. Instead, our gifts will be used in the ordinary moments of life — when we teach, parent, listen to someone in distress, cook, play a sport, dance, make others laugh.
Society does not shine the spotlight of success on these gifts. But they are just as important as singing, dancing, writing or painting. So, we can use our talents in the present moment. We can be authentic and true to our own voice, not someone else’s. Have fun. Use any failures to learn and grow.
And most important, offer our gifts in service to others.
When we do this, we are idols of the best kind. Living up to our God-given potential. And what greater gift is there?