Gifts are like treasures in many ways.
They are rare.
Gifted people, according to certain specific criteria, constitute somewhere between two and five percent of the total population.
In truth, all people are gifted in one way or another, but this is only realized if their gifts are discovered and encouraged, and they are in an environment that is conducive to their developing those gifts.
Japan is described as a nation of 120 million achievers. Teachers can play a vital role in encouraging these gifts, and it is important that schools and families work together to help children realize their maximum potentials.
Another way that gifts are like treasures is that they are extremely valuable. Gifted people surpass others in excellence. They stand out in their intelligence and abilities. Some of them are geniuses, and true genius is extremely rare, occurring in one out of every 100 thousand individuals.
Gifts are also hidden.
They are abilities, physical or mental, that lie latent in an individual. It takes expertise to identify those abilities and effort to draw them forth.
Older cognitive theories discuss mental gifts in general. More recent theories refer to a wide range of abilities and aptitudes, like creativity, leadership skills, proficiencies, and initiative.
How does being gifted relate to creativity?
Gifts are specific abilities, like drawing or memorization. Creativity is coming up with something new. It is the result of the active use of one’s gifts.
Psychologists look to the future of a gifted person and look to the past of those who have shown themselves to be creative. Being gifted is a promise while creativity is its fulfillment.
A teacher gave her fourth grade class the task of drawing flowers.
She placed the flowers in front of them so they could see what they had to draw. One student drew his flowers with eyes and smiling faces, greeting each other.
When the teacher saw this, she scolded him and expelled him from the classroom. However, he still insisted that his flowers were alive and interacted with each other.
That student’s name was Walt Disney, who would go on to become the world’s most famous cartoonist and animator, and establish the Walt Disney Company and a number of theme parks. He created Mickey Mouse in 1928, a character that is still going strong today in every country of the world, and the iconic Cinderella in 1952. He won more Oscars than anyone else in the prize’s history.
Despite the vast difference in the world’s cultures, he has made a mark on every city of the world and his characters have a presence in nearly every home. We can ask: Why is it that we cannot nurture a gifted Muslim who can provide an alternative that supports our values?
Some friends of mine made me aware of a film which is being considered by the people who produced Avatar and which tells the story of an inspirational Islamic historical figure. Even though it is a lucrative opportunity, they have found no one to financially support it.
Is a Gift a Singular Thing?
Wisdom is a gift from Allah.
He bestows wisdom on whomever He pleases. (2: 269)
Luqman was one of those whom Allah had given immense wisdom. Wisdom is the result of thought, deliberation, and experience. Many people possess this quality and live long enough to learn and inspire generations to come.
There are spiritual gifts like clemency and patience. Prophet Muhammad said to Ashajj ibn Qays:
You possess two qualities that Allah loves: gentleness and patience. (Muslim)
Then there is the intense faith of Abu Bakr,`Uthman’s modesty, `Ali’s bravery, Abu al-Darda’s wisdom, `Amr’s resourcefulness, and Mu`awiyah’s leadership skills.
There are spiritual gifts of an intellectual kind, like keen discernment and inspiration. Memory is one of these gifts, possessed by the great hadith scholars like Al-Bukhari and Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
Then there are intellectual gifts of a scientific bent, like mathematical genius in which many of the great thinkers of the East and West excelled.
There are linguistic gifts, like those possessed by Sibuwayh, al-Khalil, and many great poets.
There are physical gifts like strength, speed, and coordination which are celebrated by the world today through sporting events and which constituted part of the heroism celebrated in the past.
Are Gifted People Successful?
It might be best to speak about “successful intelligence”, since there are many intelligent people who amount to little and others of average intelligence who are very successful. Success can be defined as follows:
1. Employing one’s gifts and strengths in a positive way
2. Developing and honing one’s abilities
3. Psychological well-adjustment and social compatibility
Being able to work productively under a wide range of circumstances is a gift that practically guarantees success. True success is where a person can work consistently and persistently according to his or her abilities and in accordance with a proper understanding of the situation at hand.
I have a friend who can only work when he is among a crowd of people. He cannot practice his gifts unless he sees the multitudes surrounding him. Then he becomes creative. I know another who can only be creative when he is alone with paper and pen.
I have known many people who spoke with such promise but who never made a mark. Those who break down when they meet with failure destroy their own potential, no matter how gifted they are.
William Carey knew six languages. He worked in publishing. His publishing house produced over 300 million books in various languages. When asked how he achieved such success, he said: “If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
Inner strength is the ground from where the trees of success grow tall.