Sometimes opportunities show up in the strangest of places, and sometimes they may just change a life…
I’ve been away for a few days – traveling to New York City – and strangely enough, my biggest adventure wasn’t during my voyages around The Big Apple, but was actually on my way home.
I was waiting in the airport for my departure time to arrive. The day had been extraordinarily windy and flights throughout the airport were delayed significantly. Gates held passengers for two or three flights, each awaiting their turn to go home or continue on their journeys.
I sat in an empty seat in one of two rows of facing chairs, and after some time found myself in the middle of a high school group full of tales of their concluding trip. They were obviously bright youth.
A conversation began between a few students and someone who appeared to be their leader. Caving in to my resistance to eavesdrop, I noticed they were discussing the meaning of a particular set of words, and one student had a different opinion than everyone else. That in and of itself wasn’t something exciting, but I realized that I totally understood where he was coming from although no one else did. Then I recognized that the student was expressing ideas at the level of giftedness.
What happened next was particularly disturbing…
The adult, though visibly intelligent and well educated, began reprimanding the student for not understanding her point of view (though he did) and agreeing with that perspective as the correct one. One of the group members suggested that this student was behaving in this way only to bother her (though from his voice tonality and inflection I didn’t believe this to be so). The woman became additionally upset with the student and expressed her disappointment in him, since he was ‘smart enough to know better’, along with her embarrassment that anyone might ever know what school he represented there.
Appalled at what just happened, I came to the striking realization that this far too often is the way things work in the life of the gifted. How terrible I felt that this young man had seen the world from a point of view that made perfect sense to him but no one else could understand and was shot down so badly when he expressed his creative and unique thoughts.
A short while later this student sat in an empty seat across from me and began drawing on a piece of paper while his schoolmates chatted, ate their snacks and listened to their iPods. After some time he produced a complicated maze encompassing the entire page for his friends to attempt. Person after person tried to solve the maze but none could. He took it back and checked it for himself to make sure he hadn’t made any errors, and when he found none, circulated the page once more. Still no champions appeared and the student received his paper back just the way he had made it.
When everyone else around him was occupied I asked his name. He told me. I then asked if anyone had ever suggested to him that he may be gifted. He said maybe, he didn’t know. I looked toward his maze and said it may be likely, and, admitting to overhearing his earlier conversation, said that his perspectives were expressed at a level of giftedness. He smiled and lowered his gaze. Wanting only to plant a seed, I left him to ponder the thought and engaged in a brief conversation with another student until they were called to board their plane.
Was the young man in the airport gifted? I don’t have any way to tell for sure, but many of the signs were there.
I hope that he went home at the end of his day with the idea that there may be something a bit more to him than he had previously thought. I hope he felt, even in the smallest way, that maybe there wasn’t something wrong with him after all, but that maybe there was something very, very right.
This young man remains now in my thoughts and prayers.
May he find his way.