No. 30

In today's times we often hear the statement, "he or she is a very gifted person," but have you ever thought about what this statement really means? In checking my dictionary, the word "gifted" is defined as 'one having or showing great natural ability or one who is talented.' As it's used in this context, the word gifted is really a label that is used to identify a person as being a 'cut above' the average or one who has been blessed with extraordinary talent.
In recent years we have learned a great deal about the self-image and the tremendous power it has over our lives. We have also come to realize that one of the most powerful and damaging things we can do to another human being is to pin a negative label on them. In most cases, without even realizing it, when we refer to other people as dumb, stupid, idiot or morons, we have not only pinned a label on them, we are giving them mental pictures of themselves that sooner or later they will begin to accept as true.
The converse of this statement is also true. When we pin positive labels on people, such as brilliant, smart, intelligent and gifted, they begin to visualize themselves in a different light and form mental pictures that create potential for full use of their talents and abilities. I did not use labels here that have to do with a person's outward physical appearance, since a quick glance in the mirror is all it takes to prove or disprove whether this kind of label is valid.
In relation to the emphasis our nation's educators are placing on identifying gifted and talented students, if used in the proper way, I personally believe this new focus has some merit, because we all know as technology continues to advance we will need our very best minds to help us solve problems. There is, however, a great danger in this new focus, as illustrated in an article titled, "Who Are The Gifted?", written by Wilbert Larson of Fort Collins, Colorado. Mr. Larson points out that Albert Einstein was four years old before he could speak and seven years old before he could read. Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school, Beethoven's music teacher once said of him, "as a composer, he is hopeless." When Thomas Edison was a boy, his teacher told him that he was "too stupid to learn anything." A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had "no good ideas." Caruso's music teacher told him, "You can't sing! You have no voice at all." Leo Tolstoy, author of War And Peace, flunked out of college. Abraham Lincoln entered the Black Hawk War as a captain and came out as a private!! Fred Waring was once rejected from high school chorus and Winston Churchill failed the sixth-grade.
If we know these examples of where people did not fare well in the beginning, but later turned out to be world famous, how many others could have been, if someone had not pinned a negative label on them or destroyed their confidence by ridicule? Yes, labels are very powerful and we need to be careful. When we look at any person, young or old, we just never know who are the truly gifted.
A final thought with reference to our nation’s educators. What I am sharing here is not meant to demean or detract from the good job you are doing. I’m simply pointing out that we should never ‘give up’ on a student, or any person for that matter, who may not possess obvious talents and skills. There are many people who are ‘late bloomers’ who do not achieve real success until later in life. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)