Sometimes the finest talents are those you can’t perform on a stage.
I once worked with a guy who was a newspaper sub-editor by day and a stand-up comedian at night. One of my neighbours trained as a concert pianist in London and my daughter worked with a physiotherapist who was an Olympic kayaker. My husband had a boss who’d played keyboards in a band in the ’70s that had a top 10 hit on the Aussie music charts.
I love the idea of people having talents, gifts or skills that are unrelated to their ‘everyday’ life, often unknown to those around them. It’s like possessing a secret superpower.
Perhaps that’s the appeal of Channel 7’s Australia’s Got Talent (AGT). In its ninth season, the reality television show is an uplifting smorgasbord of breathtaking, weird, hilarious and beautiful acts performed by everyday Aussies in front of a panel of judges. While they’re striving to win the $100,000 prize money, it’s also an opportunity to showcase their talents on national TV.
And what talents they have. Acts have included gifted teenage acrobats, singers and dancers; a mother-of-twins-cum-comedian — not to mention a seven-year-old boy doing stand-up comedy. There are knife throwers, fire twirlers, archers and illusionists. A 76-year-old grandmother bodybuilder took to the stage, as did a man performing amazing tricks with his skipping rope, and a bicycle mechanic whose two-wheeled stunts were astounding.
One of the most powerful performances this season came from the Hummingsong community choir. The Sydney-based network of women’s choirs offers members the opportunity to make music and friendships, with performances raising awareness and funds for women and children escaping domestic violence. In a moving pre-performance interview, one of the performers, a survivor of domestic abuse, described how the choir had been a lifeline for her. Three hundred singers filled the stage, their rendition of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know bringing the judges and many in the audience to tears.
It’s entertaining and often uplifting to watch the eclectic array of abilities on AGT, but there are many life talents, gifts and skills that can’t be taken onto a stage. If they could, these might also inspire awe and move people to tears.
We’ve all met people who have a talent for saying just the right thing, or who inspire us with their encouragement and deep kindness. Others have wrapped their warm hospitality and generosity around us, and many of us have been brought to tears by acts of compassion or selflessness.
We are born with some gifts and talents, and some we have to work at — empathy, patience, humility, forgiveness, leadership and insight are not easy to achieve.
The writer of the Bible book of Romans, chapter 12, verses 6-8, reminds us that all of us have something special to offer. “In his grace, God has given us different gifts … if your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
Our gifts don’t need to be spotlit on a stage to shine through to those around us. They just need to be used.