One of my favourite Christmas carols is The Little Drummer Boy with its foot-tapping beat and special message. The song was originally known as Carol of the Drum and was composed by the American classical composer Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941.
Just close your eyes and imagine the scene before the wonder struck eyes of the poor, ragged boy. He has been told about the newborn king whom he has come to worship. Mother Mary and St Joseph are kneeling in adoration on either side of Baby Jesus in a crib. There are shepherds and animals, including ox and sheep, surrounding the crib. Humble folk have come with their “finest gifts”. Perhaps the kid is awestruck at the sight of the three Wise Men from the East with their imposing cloaks and headgear. They bring with them precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The little drummer boy thinks for a moment. He has nothing to offer but his musical talent — that of playing the drum. He starts playing tentatively at first. He picks up courage and then gets into the mood, playing the drums with gusto, “Pa ra pa papum, Pa ra pa papum”. He gains confidence as Mary nods in appreciation. The ox and sheep keep time. But what the little boy treasures most is when Jesus “smiled at me, me and my drum”.
Each of us is a unique individual with unique talents. These are God-given gifts which we should not lock away but use for our own satisfaction and for the greater good. One of the issues that is a block to the use of our talents is that, like the drummer boy, we compare ourselves negatively with others. But while the wise men were endowed with wisdom, they could not play the drums with the verve and beat of the poor boy.
The world is enriched by the contribution of great inventors, composers, authors, musicians, doctors, engineers and teachers. Leonardo da Vinci never thought, “Someone somewhere sometime will paint a better Mona Lisa than me. So why waste my time?” The famous playwright, George Bernard Shaw, did not waste his time painting when he could use his brilliant wit and writing ability productively.
The “I am not good enough” self-talk often originates from parents who, in turn, have learnt this negativity from their parents. They adversely compare their children based on grades, little realizing that each child has individual talents. This is a narrow and biased perspective.
A well-known doctor had an only son, Anup. The doctor expected his son to be academically as brilliant as he was. Great expectations which were not to be as Anup was dyslexic. It pained Anup’s mother Leela when her husband would regularly berate their son for “slacking in studies”. This caused Anup to retreat into a shell. Fortunately Leela saw that Anup had culinary skills. She encouraged him in pursuing his passion for cooking and simultaneously convinced her academically-brilliant but foolish husband to desist from his tirades against their child. Anup is today the proud owner of two successful eating houses.
Each of you is a thinking person. Spare some time from your busy schedule and, like the little drummer boy, dwell on what you like to do and are good at. If you love singing but croak like a frog, then forget it! See how you can best improve your skills and go for it. Surround yourself with genuine and positive-thinking friends who won’t dishearten your new activity before you even begin. Read self-improvement books. Expand your mind with knowledge beyond textbooks.
Since we have been given time and talents by the Almighty, we should be happy to use them for His greater glory. We don’t live on a desert island. As a part of a cohesive society, we should use our talents for others as well. Some doctors, lawyers and teachers, for instance, find time to help the needy pro bono despite being busy in their professions.
Atmavishwas in Verna, Goa, runs a café and a workshop for the mentally and physically challenged. The two days I spent with them was an eye-opener. There are fourteen young adults at this centre. Each is challenged in a different way. Savio Dagama, who has Down’s Syndrome, is trained to use the coffee dispenser to make coffee. He bows politely to guests and asks, “What can I serve you ma’am? What would you like to have, sir?” Savio is also a talented guitarist and his talent has been encouraged by his parents and his sister. Angel helps in the kitchen. Danny, who has a hearing impediment, loves to sew. He is guided and taught to make saleable items on a sewing machine. Mentally-challenged Gillian loves to embroider. She is taught how to do neat work that can be sold. Some are taught to make cards and table mats. Apart from skill training, these youth are taught to do their little bit for the less privileged.
There are many ways you could each make a difference. Approach a hospital nearby and spend some time at the children’s ward; perhaps sing to the kids or put up cheerful paintings. On Gandhi Jayanti, the enthusiastic youth of St Andrew’s Church, Mumbai, organized talks on how each of us must do our bit to save the planet. I recently took part in the Palliative Care Walk in Bandra organized to raise awareness about palliative care and was impressed by the large turnout of youth for this good cause.
We all have talents in varying degrees. All we need, like the little drummer boy, is a bit of introspection to gauge our talents, encouragement so that we can utilize them for our livelihood in doing something we enjoy and for the betterment of humanity.