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by Community Activators
Published by Island Press
256 pages – softcover
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Table of Contents :
|I. Lost and Found : Giving Gifts a Foothold In Our Lives
1. A Teacher Finds Trouble
2. Help from Two Directions
3. Old and New Giftedness
II. Understanding the Light in the Distance
III. Core Gifts and Second-Level Learning
IV. Six Benefits of the Core Gift
|The Interior Life Of The Teacher
10. Benefit One: Increased Courage to Face Difficult Situations Teacher’s Dialogue
11. Benefit Two: Healing Yourself and Having Compassion for Others Teacher’s Dialogue
12. Benefit Three: Restoring and Maintaining Hope Teacher’s Dialogue
The Teacher-Student Relationship
V. Your Turn: Finding Your Core Gift
I can tell you this from repeated personal experience-all the incompetence you possess, whether it is real or imagined, cannot stand up to the compelling urge to give your core gift once you realize what you must do. I am quite certain it is no accident, but instead an act of supreme grace, that our core gifts are not as concerned with competency as much as commitment. People, young and old, are often calmed and find renewed confidence when I remind them that “you don’t have to be good at giving your gift.” Your core gift instructs you in what you must do, and understands that over time you will get good at it. Your core gift has its eye on something much larger than whether or not you are competent in a given moment in your life-it is calling you to go in a specific direction. It has the patience to wait for you to find the path, and generously rewards those who do. Later on in this book it says:
“Each of us has a specific thing we are supposed to be doing. When we rise up, after bending down and picking up our load, we find ourselves pointed towards the path that reveals our place in the world-where we can give our core gift, find the trouble we were meant to encounter, and where opportunities to heal from suffering lie waiting for our arrival.”
Teaching is just one of the many ways that your core gift shows up in your life. Once you know your core gift, you will be able to see how you keep coming back to it for help, both inside and outside your life as a teacher. You will think back to younger years and see how powerful its influence has been in your life. You may laugh or you may cry as you reflect back and realize how giving this gift too much or too little has gotten you into much of the trouble you have found in your life. Most of all, I hope after reading this book you will look forward to, and actively welcome, your core gift as it follows you into your later life, whatever path you choose.
A word of caution: If you are a teacher, your core gift is not “being a teacher.” This statement confuses many teachers, particularly if they have made a deep commitment to the craft of helping others learn and see it as the primary purpose of their life. This book helps to clarify one of the most misunderstood aspects of core gifts. I often hear teachers claim their core gift is teaching. In the same vein, social service employees often claim their core gift is “helping others.” Good teaching and good social work involve using many different skills, talents, and gifts which, when taken as a whole, result in good work being done. But core gifts are more specific, and have a precise nature to them. There is one very specific ability within the act of teaching to which you are drawn more than all the rest. That ability is your core gift. It could be helping others to expand their imagination. Maybe it is in creating a welcoming and safe place for people to learn. Perhaps it is in helping others to put a logical sequence to complex ideas. Or could it be helping people to discover the truth? The possibilities are many, and the idea of core gifts instructs us that each teacher is attracted to and insatiably curious about one particular attribute within the practice of being a teacher. Do you know what that specific attribute is for you?
More often, the reason for the difference between what you think your gift is and the gift which resulted from the process has to do with what could be called the “wished-for gift.” The wished-for gift is the result of one or more conditions under which a person wants to be seen and appreciated for having a certain attribute. Perhaps it is the talent or skill for which you receive constant praise and attention. Maybe it is the talent you use in a profession to which you are dedicated and want to be recognized. Perhaps you struggled and suffered through some professional training or college and want to be seen for being competent in that area. Whatever the reason, the wished-for gift brings little deep satisfaction.
We may do many things to try and convince ourselves we have a certain core gift. Our ego can be involved, trying its best to sway our decision away from the evidence. Our suffering may be trying to hide the truth of our story. We may, in an effort to be accepted by others, be responding to the needs and expectations they have of us. We may even be good at fulfilling these other-directed desires. But no matter how much we give these abilities, and no matter how much acknowledgment we receive, we still feel the emptiness in our soul. We have only satisfied what is on the top, and have not attempted to feed the depths of our deeper calling and our deeper suffering.
This giving of surface-level skills and talents genuinely feels good in the moment, like the familiar sensation of so many momentary pleasures. But it quickly fades. It is the sugar rush of the false gift trying to get us to look the other way. We give our wished-for gift some more, and then some more, hoping each time we will feel the longing of our soul being satisfied. All of this is, usually, to avoid the paradox of the core gift. What deeply satisfies will, sooner or later, also deeply hurt.
For genuine help to occur and sustain itself, communities must look beyond the surface-level messages being brought by the person asking for help. Messages such as “I am hungry,” “I have no place to live,” and “I need a job,” as important as they are to attend to, are not the primary message. The more urgent and more lifesaving messages – for all of us – that the stranger is laying as a gift at our doorstep are: “How am I like you? How is my suffering like your suffering? In what ways do both of us know the feeling of being unwelcome for who we are and the gifts we have to offer?”
Time and time again I have witnessed that, when social service workers act in ways that are less directed towards preparing an “incapacitated” person for community re-entry and focus more on developing existing places in the community to actively reach out and welcome the gifts of these citizens, remarkable things begin to happen. Social services, long focused on a “getting a person ready” model of service, have neglected the most powerful solution to the issue of being excluded and requesting social services help: the belief that each person has a gift to offer.
The most revolutionary and important work for social service agencies in current times is to remind communities that each person has a gift and to encourage them to act on it. As Palmer helps us remember, we must believe at the very core of our being that we need the stranger as much as the stranger needs us.
Gifts have a self-leveling quality to them. When they are acknowledged, they will adjust themselves to be seen and used with acceptable levels of both intensity and frequency. The task of the teacher is to find ways for the person’s gift to be contributed in a healthy way. Rather than trying to reduce the giving of the gift, the teacher finds ways to reorient this powerful capacity in the person. Punishment, in cases where the gift is being given in ways that are not helpful, sends the message to the person’s psyche that the most valuable part of who they are is not worthy of others’ attention and gratitude. The likely result of this awareness is a building resentment, a purposeful lack of appreciation of others’ gifts, and a continuing escalation of disrupting behavior.
WA Residents will be charged 8.4% sales tax.
author of The Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness