They are siblings. One is an athlete. The other is an artist.

Family members value this brother and sister equally. They recognize that they have different natural tendencies and talents. Not in competition with each other. Not better or worse- just different. Both are encouraged to apply themselves and develop their abilities. 

Society does not necessarily concur with this family’s perspective. The educational system seems to validate the assumption that athletes are valued more highly than artists. When school budgets are discussed the arts are subject to reduction far more often than the funding for the athletic program. Our economic system certainly rewards the athlete more generously than the artist. Huge multi-million dollar contracts for talented athletes are commonplace because of the revenue they generate. At the same time a good case can be made that the “starving artist” moniker is not a misnomer.

It is easy to conclude that one person or one skill is more valuable than another when often it is simply a matter of being different. Actually all are important. I have a friend who can build a house, repair a car, oversee a huge program of activities, excel in certain sports, relate well to people, and succeed as a public speaker. He can do almost anything. Is he more important than persons like me who are more limited in scope?

One of my former co-workers has the wonderful ability to listen to ideas and then take the words and translate them into visual images. I am amazed at that skill. Another colleague designs websites and writes computer programs that enable others like me to sit at our computer terminal with a keyboard and mouse and be productive. I know people who can paint a picture with words so that you can really visualize what they are describing. Is one more important than the other?

Recently I met an individual in Nashville who was planning to come to Atlanta for a business meeting. In discussing the location of their gathering she remarked that she was “directionally challenged.” Fortunately, she said, a friend was coming with her and would serve as her navigator. Of course, she could have used a GPS which is designed by someone to help us get to our destination. Which of these persons is most important?

My wife and I are engaged in a remodeling project at our house. No, we are not doing the work (although the friend mentioned above could). We have engaged a contractor to oversee the effort. He will utilize designers, draftsmen, granite and tile specialists, painters, carpenters, flooring installers, electricians, and plumbers. There will be others who assist with clean up and tasks that require less specialized skills. Are any of them less important than the other?

The physical body is a wonderful example of the value of diversity. The hand, foot, eye, ear, and other body parts all have different functions that are necessary for the efficient operation of the body as a whole. Which of these would you want to do without?

Likewise different people have different gifts that equip them to contribute to the whole. What is true for the physical body is also relevant to the family and to society as a whole.

Only as you accept your part does your “part” mean anything because you become aware that other “parts” are necessary for full and effective functionality. This realization helps us to keep our role in perspective and not feel too self-important. No matter how significant our role is, it is important only because of what we are a part of.

Jamie Jenkins

Advertisements