Ever witness someone do something extraordinarily well, like during the recent Rio Olympics for example? You might think, “He or she is so talented. I wish I could do something half as well!”
I’ve played the trumpet since fifth grade. I took lessons, performed in contests, participated in marching, concert and dance bands in high school and college, played in church and sounded “Taps” at military funerals. And, I’ve been playing in the Fort Wayne Area Community Band since 1979.
You would think all of that experience and opportunity would not make me envious of another’s talent. But for some reason when a guest trumpet player performed with the community band a few summers ago, his superb performance made me feel as though everything I’d been doing music-wise was a waste of time.
It didn’t help my fragile ego later that same week when I played golf on a 95-degree day with three close friends. And even though I realize golf can get about anyone down in the dumps like nothing else, my inability to hit the ball consistently – coupled with the above trumpet envy – led me to comment to a fellow golfer who also plays in the community band just how miserably lacking in any real talent I was.
But he didn’t hesitate to counter my negativity, pointing out how far above average we both were in our abilities compared to many others. He said, “There are many people who can’t hear music let alone play an instrument. Others are so physically challenged they can’t readily move their arms and legs, and, of course, are not coordinated enough to even swing a golf club.”
As I returned my hapless putter to the golf bag, I recalled how both of us earned a living together for 30 years working in public relations for a major utility. We also are capable of writing a declarative sentence and speaking in public, to name additional talents. I guess my friend knows me pretty well.
Someone else who knows me quite well, of course, is my wife, Marty. When I related my wistful lack-of-talent thoughts to her she didn’t sympathize either. In fact, she reminded me how my failure to consistently practice both the trumpet and my golf game was the real reason I haven’t attained the success level about which I was complaining.
As I thought about it later, I was ashamed for not appreciating my own talents. Sometimes we literally can’t see the woods for the trees. In this instance, I’m talking about the beauty of the woods on a golf course as opposed to envying the ability of Tiger Woods. And, with regard to playing music, I came across this quote from American author, poet, educator and clergyman Henry Van Dyke: “The woods would be very silent if the only birds that sang were those who sang best.”
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