Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stubby Little Pencil

I've been a busy little bee! Seems like "stuff" just piles up so quickly. I can't imagine how people with full-time careers AND children manage to get so much done. I've always marvelled at the capacity some women seem to have to do EVERYTHING! A few years ago, I came to the sad, but true, conclusion that I simply am not one of those women. I am so limited by my own personal challenges and handicaps, that at times I can be overwhelmed to the point of paralyzation.

Though I don't always remember the lesson as well as I would like, I often reflect on a principle I learned several years ago by reading a book by a Japanese-American woman I greatly admire, Cheiko Okazaki. I've always loved her writings, as hers is the elegant, yet rare voice of both brutal honesty and enthusiastic optimism. In one of her addresses to the women in church, Cheiko talks about her years growing up as a Japanese woman in a primarily Caucasion society, where she often felt like she didn't quite fit. She explains that as she grew, and came to understand her purpose in life, she became a champion for differences!

She said, "...look around...Do you see women of different ages, races, or different backgrounds...Of different educational, marital, and professional experiences? Women with children? Women without children? Women of vigorous health and those who are limited by chronic illness or handicaps? Rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood! It is the diversity of colors in a spectrum that makes a rainbow."

She further explained that no matter what our specific individual circumstances, we can each have a profound impact on the lives of those around us. She explains, "Do not feel that your gift is insignificant. Mother Teresa says, 'I’m a little pencil in the hands of God. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything—and it’s really hard-—sometimes it’s a broken pencil. He has to sharpen it a little more. But be a little instrument in His hands so that He can use you anytime, anywhere. We have only to say Yes to Him'.”

When I am feeling a bit discouraged because I can't seem to accomplish all the things I set out to do (or rarely even half of them), I try to remember Cheiko's (and Mother Teresa's) wisdom. I envision myself as a pencil...albeit a fat, stubby, chewed on, worn-down eraserless pencil. I try to remind myself that I don't have to be perfect to do something. I can give a part of me. All I need do is say YES.

Whether or not one shares my Christian philosophy is irrelevant. While I personally believe that while in God's service, He will magnify us to be more capable than we would normally be, the principle is equally true for nonbelievers. Whether we are saying "YES" to God or simply "YES" to ourselves, we become stronger in the act of doing. Instead of holding back our gifts (creativity) because we fear they may not be good enough, or well-received, or whatever the case may be; instead, we must move forward with courage. We have to trust that our best efforts WILL matter. We will believe that our unique gifts DO make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. We commit ourselves to sharing our gifts, talents, or simple acts of service. We have faith (or even the tiniest bit of hope) that in so doing, we will be filled with personal purpose. The spectrum of our collective rainbow will shine brighter, bringing joy to those within its arching reach.


  1. Cheryl, this is just beautiful and exactly what I needed to read in these times of transition for me! Love ya!

    p.s. I may have to steal your post for my blog :)