Friday, July 15, 2011

Sharing Our Gifts


When my sister was in college, I would periodically get phone calls about papers she was working on for her various classes. She would tell me about the latest research she was doing on gothic architecture, on early American slave literature, or on so-and-so, the very controversial artist. Thanks to modern technology, she would email the 8-10 page creations, which I would peruse and mark with electronic notes before sending them 3,000 miles in seconds, back in time to meet her deadlines.

When I would tell my students about the importance of editing their work, I would strongly encourage them to find someone (preferably someone better than themselves) to read and evaluate their work before turning it into me. “Writers depend on editors” I would assure them “no matter their level or talent.” And then I would tell them about the latest work my sister had sent to me—and they would raise their hands in protest.

“She can’t let you edit her papers; that’s cheating.”
“You’re an English teacher; that’s not fair.”
“I’m not writing anything for her; I’m not changing her work. I’m making suggestions on how to improve it. She’s a perfectly good writer all on her own, I’m just helping with the details.”

Writing and editing is a gift I enjoy sharing, with my sister while she was in college, with my brother who is still in high school, with my husband who had to write a lot of carefully worded essays to get into medical school and then residency, with our good friends who were doing the same. I’ve helped construct my mom’s Christmas letter for ages. I have worked on resumes and cover letters and applications for all sorts of friends, readings for church, and recommendation letters for scholarships. Every time I get an opportunity to assist I feel like it’s a gift I can offer, and one that certainly doesn’t need payment.

In due time, everything comes around. My sister, now out of college as a professional photographer, spent hours last week taking beautiful photographs for our anniversary. My mom helped us work through the purchase of a house. Curtis diagnosed me with “the common cold”, and saves me a trip to the doctor’s office…or just curiosity.

I often sense, in the classroom and the media and everywhere else, that our society is focused on what can be gained from a situation—wondering “what is in it for me.” While I am surely guilty of selfish motives, I find such little satisfaction in looking for payment in what could have been a gift. For though there is much time invested in writing and editing for others, there is also much to be gained—learning about famous artists and architecture, discovering my brother’s perspective on Dante’s Inferno, catching up on what happened in our family while I’ve been out of town, and dialoguing with my husband about why he is so passionate about his career choice.

Yes, giving up time to share talents and gifts is a sacrifice, but it often turns out to be a rewarding gift as well—even if it’s often intangible.



  1. Oh. My. GOODNESS!!!!
    First of all, what an amazing post this is - no truer words have ever been spoken!

    Secondly, I'm DYING over your pics - I'm IN LOVE! What an amazing photographer and what a fab couple!

    Now I need to send Celine to your blog to check out these pics as inspiration for her photography practice!

    Ps. Allow me to thank you once again for removing the verification code. I'm very excited that I can just hit "post comment"...

  2. totally great. i love the "old schoolness" of them and how cute the two subjects are. the anniversary photos are so nice. i have some for my sister and her husband coming up (as they did not have a 'traditional' wedding and do not really have wedding photographs). i love this. thanks for sharing ali!

  3. I had no idea what a talented photographer she was, but your pictures turned out AMAZING! And I too am pretty much always the go-to editor for my friends... it's always nice to be asked! ;)