Max and I were standing in the back of a crowded room when I started thinking about his talents, because of what a dad said.
We were at the bar mitzvah of Nathan, a friend from camp. His dad was making a speech that touched on Nathan's growth and progress. Nathan has autism, and an interest in lights and electricity. For the camp talent show, Nathan demonstrated how to place fluorescent bulbs in a light fixture. Max had enthusiastically sung "Try Everything," from Zootopia, completely with an impromptu bootie shake to the crowd.
Nathan's father spoke of his son's fascination with electricity—which, he clarified with a smile, Nathan can now handle safely. He noted that the room we were in had many, many people who were older than Nathan and, in fact, many people who were vastly older than Nathan. And you know, he said (I'm paraphrasing as best I can recall), "I'll bet there is nobody else in this entire room who could install a fluorescent light fixture."
I'll bet that was a lightbulb moment for many people in that room.
When you hear the word "talent," it's typical to think of exceptional athletes, musicians, singers, actors, artists and dancers. That includes people of all abilities, of course. Artist Dan Keplinger has cerebral palsy; 7-year-old artist Iris Grace has autism. Dancer/choreographer Alice Sheppard is in a wheelchair. Lauren Potter played Becky on Glee to perfection. Oh, and then there's the entire Special Olympics.
Nathan has a gift for electronics, unique in that roomful of people. Max has a distinct gift, too. He knows just how to perk up anyone's mood: with a gesture, a look, a sound, a smile. It is a talent. People are drawn to him like moths to a light.
Max has shown me other permutations of talent, too. Exceptional doesn't have to mean in comparison to anyone; you can be exceptional in your own right. Max has an aptitude for singing. Not the kind that wins Grammys—a unique kind that is expressed with passion and enthusiasm (here he is belting out Let It Go). Who knows what other talents have yet to emerge. For one, the tap-dancing lessons will be starting up again this fall.
"We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special life," said Evelyn Dunbar, a British artist and teacher. When it comes to our children, it is our privilege and adventure as parents to discover their talents—and to enable others to see them, too.
Image: Flickr/K. Lizzie