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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Do Anything

February 28th, 2002

Did you watch the Winter Olympic Games?

Exciting as the competition and controversy were, most interesting to me were the vignettes of the athletes. The stories of where they are from, how they became interested in their particular sport, and their dreams of becoming Olympians. Many of the individuals profiled spoke of parents or coaches who believed in them and told them that, with enough effort and commitment, they could achieve their dream of becoming a world class athlete. Some said they were inspired by watching Olympic athletes of previous eras. Sitting in front of the Zenith television they said, “I want to do that someday.”

As I watch my children grow, I can’t help but wonder what they will do when they grow up. What will they be like? What will they be good at? What will their talents be? What can I do as their father to help them grow and develop as individuals? As a Dad, what can I do to help their discovery process? Get them interested in reading? Music lessons? Dance class? Art? Sports? History? All of the above? Will I be smart enough to not force my children to be something they are not? Or will I be the parent all the teachers complain about in the lounge during recess? The parent who insists his daughter has talent in an area that she obviously does not. Will I be the parent who frustrates his children by pushing them to pursue an area of study or extra-curricular activity that they have no interest in? I hope not.

We’ve all heard the words. Perhaps we’ve had them said to us. Maybe we’ve spoken them to our own children. “This is America. You can do anything. You can be anything you want to be.” I understand the intended spirit of that statement. We want our children to see the opportunities in front of them. We want them to understand the unique freedom we have in our country that guarantees our right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We want our children to think big, to develop their potential, to not sell themselves short. This, after all, is America.

I love our country. At the risk of sounding un-patriotic, the statement isn’t true. We can’t do or be anything we want. Even in America.

As a kid in sitting in front of the Zenith television I watched Philadelphia 76ers’ Julius Erving perform acrobatic miracles on the basketball court. Dr. J’s mid-air suspensions and launch pad slam dunks are legendary. I imagined what it would be like to hang in the air that high and that long. Lots of boys my age thought it would be cool to play basketball like Dr. J. But facts are facts. Even in my best athletic shape I had the vertical leap of a coffee table. My hands are too small to palm a basketball. As a high school player, I was easily on the very low side of mediocre in a tiny school. This is America. I was free to dream. But unless the NBA required everyone but me to play blindfolded on their knees and allowed me mini-trampoline assisted dunks, professional basketball wasn’t in my future.

We can’t do or be anything we want. I think being a commercial jet pilot would be a great career. But since my right eye is plastic and the uncorrected vision in my left eye is something like 20/700, that can’t happen. For some reason, the airlines prefer pilots with two eyes and true depth perception. Go figure.

The fact is, we can’t do or be anything we want. We do a disservice to our children when we tell them they can. Reality is, desire must be matched with talent and ability. Being a world class athlete requires more than hard work. It requires physical talent. The Bank of America commercials broadcast during the Olympics illustrated that truth very well. They depicted BofA employees’ attempts to compete in the events. Skiers rolling and bouncing down the mountain, figure skaters flopping around on the ice, and a hockey goalie getting lit up like a Christmas tree. The message communicated that the best way BofA could support the Olympic effort was not to compete, but for their employees to do what they do best; banking.

We can’t be anything we want to be. And that’s ok. Because there is something better than being anything we want to be. It’s being what God made us to be. We are, each one of us, uniquely designed by God. He has wired into you and into me special gifts and abilities. We’re happiest and most productive when we’re being ourselves as He designed us. Contrary to popular belief, God’s master plan does not include everyone selling all they have to be a missionary in Botswana. God wants us to be who He designed us to be, regardless of occupation.

How much better to remind our kids, and ourselves, that God has uniquely gifted each of us for His purposes. There’s no one with the talent/gift/life experience combination that you have. You and I can’t “do anything”. But we can do everything God has wired us to do. There’s plenty of adventure in discovering the personalized plan from an infinite God who loves us without condition and without fail.

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ…but in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12,18