I learned a long time ago that there are many things in which I do not excel; many things in which I lack interest in learning to do; and many things in which I lack talent, a genetic predisposition, or a “gift.” In 1968, I became immensely aware that I lacked artistic talent, as well as any ability whatsoever to learn to be an artist. It was in 1968, in 5th grade, when I met Sam Ward, who was my classmate and with whom I have been friends ever since. Remember those greeting cards teachers required school children to make for their parents for Thanksgiving? The ones for which the kids spread out their fingers, trace them with crayons or colored pencils, then color them, in not so clever ways, to make them look like a turkey? While the other kids and I were dutifully tracing our little hands on construction paper, Sam was drawing a cornucopia, filled with nature’s bounty, in addition to the most beautiful turkey any of us had ever seen. As it turns out, Sam’s father was Wellington Ward, an amazingly talented and famous artist and my friend Sam, even as a 5th grader, demonstrated talents equal, if not superior to, his dad. Needless to say, the teacher was astounded! Also needless to say, the rest of us were rendered almost speechless! Here, in our midst, was the next Picasso! My dear Mother, as well as some other well meaning neighborhood moms, decided their little darlings could be taught how to become amazingly artistic like Sam, so the summer after 5th grade, they enrolled us in, you guessed it, art lessons. The odd part about this was that someone decided it would be a good idea for Sam to enroll in art lessons with us. Bad idea. Sam was light years better than our teacher who, to protect what little self esteem she had remaining after seeing his work, told his parents there was nothing she could teach him. This, sadly, left the rest of us to plod through our dreary art lessons, with no hope of ever becoming like Sam. So, when faced with a “Sam” in life, I have learned to admit I have been bested; I will never be as good as this person; and I need to move on to something else at which I have a chance of success. Thanks, Sam, for teaching me this valuable life lesson!
My Sam is named Storm. As a child, I enjoyed playing neighborhood baseball and football games. By junior high and high school, softball and football were, seasonally, part of phys ed. Though I never wanted to be on a ball team, I did enjoy these games somewhat. But, while most of us boys played at normal boy level, there was Storm. Best at baseball, best at football, and pretty good at basketball. It was obvious to all that, in our small school, he was a stand out. By 11th or 12th grade he was team captain, quarterback, pitcher, etc. Along with a few others, including 1 other standout, Glenn, our little school won a few state championships and, Storm (and Glenn) got recruited to play professional baseball, where Storm went on to play in a couple of World Series games. Like Sam, Storm’s dad was an influence who made a big difference – he was the head coach at the school. The bottom line is, there is almost always someone more talented, more artistic, more athletic, than everyone else. For those like Melissa, and me, who are or have often been at the top of some pursuit, it is sometimes humbling to recognize that we’re not at the top in every endeavor. Learning that lesson early is a good thing, but it shouldn’t eliminate the enjoyment to be had in pursuing things at which we are not the best. Sometimes, it is the trying that makes it worthwhile.