Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Terrible at tennis and pathetic on the piano? Thank God for our other gifts

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published November 16, 2023

I’m not the kind of woman who strings together cranberries and popcorn to make garlands for the Christmas tree. Nor will you find me with glitter and glue, transforming pine cones into sparkling table decorations. I have great respect for folks who have these capabilities, but if you hand me a sewing pattern or a ball of yarn, I will get a haunted look in my eyes. If you are like me, take heart!  

You see, I’m confident there’s something ingenious you can do, even if it doesn’t involve pine cones and glitter. Perhaps it is fixing computers or fixing meals, planting seeds of wisdom in little minds or planting parsley in the garden, balancing the books or booking a trip.  

Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on our talents, which appear early in life and may not be exactly what adults had in mind for us.   

My mother could play the piano by ear, but I didn’t inherit that gift, so she enlisted a piano teacher to instruct me. I still shudder at the memory of that grumpy lady hovering over me and banging out the rhythm with a ruler. As I laboriously plunked out “over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail, as the caissons go rolling along,” I began to hate the piano, as well as caissons, even though I wasn’t sure what they were.  

As for sports, whenever it was time for physical education, I was certain an injury was in store for me, whether it was a painful kick in the shins or the psychological torment inflicted upon the terminally clumsy. It seems that no matter what sport I attempted, my coaches were never happy with my efforts. To this day whenever I drive within a mile of a bowling alley, I can hear them screaming “Follow through!”  

Still, when I sat down to write stories, no one threatened me with rulers or yelled at me. No one said I was a detriment to the team, since writing was definitely not a group effort. And I never cringed at the sight of a blank sheet of paper, as I did when I saw the tumbling mat.  

I didn’t realize it then, but all these years later, I know our gifts come from God, and must be nurtured. Today, when people ask me the secret of being a writer, I explain that writing shares something in common with piano playing, because it requires gazillions of hours sitting at a keyboard. Sometimes nothing happens at all, unless you count the time staring at a squirrel.  

Still, as Flannery O’Connor put it, you have to sit there, even on the days when nothing happens,   because if you’re not there when a creative idea strikes, you’ll miss it. She turned her desk away from the window, so she couldn’t view the assortment of ducks, swans and peacocks parading around the farm. Today, writers often get distracted by social media rather than swans.  

Rather than hiding our talents under the proverbial bushel, let’s take them out and exercise them. We are made in the image of God, who is a creator, so we all have innate creative abilities. True, we may not receive the world’s applause, but God has counted every hair on our heads, so he sees us, whether we’re in the garden or the garage, the classroom or the kitchen, on the playing field or at the piano.  

Thanksgiving is a magnificent moment to thank God for our gifts, whether they involve glitter and glue, thimble and thread, pencil and pen—or perhaps a bowling ball and the distant echo of a gym teacher screaming “Follow through!”   

Lorraine has written a spiritual biography of Flannery O’Connor, “The Abbess of Andalusia,” plus three church mysteries, “Death in the Choir,” “Death of a Liturgist” and “Death Dons a Mask.” Sketch is by her late husband, Jef ( Lorraine’s email address is