Grace Notes, by Nancy Kennedy

In my family we have this thing we say about our mom dropping us on our heads as babies.

Not that she ever did — that I’m aware of — although she has admitted to tossing my oldest brother over her shoulder accidentally a bit too vigorously, catching him by his foot before he could crash to the floor.

No harm, no foul, as they say.

Actually, the thing we say in our family is a bit — a lot — more insensitive than “dropped on your head.” When one of us does something notably not very smart we say, “That must be the part of your brain that was damaged.”

Truly, I’m not making light of people with brain injuries. I’m just trying to explain something incredibly stupid that I said when I was a kid that my family has never forgotten.

My youngest brother had done something — I don’t remember what — and I, being a 12- or 13-year-old self-appointed diagnostician, told my parents that he probably did whatever he did “because that’s the part of his brain that was damaged.”

I had read something in a magazine that said everyone’s brain has some part that somewhere, somehow has been damaged. Or maybe I dreamed it. Either way, I said it.

Man, I wish I had a rewind/erase button on my mouth.

But this isn’t a column about saying regrettable things, although it easily could be because that’s one topic on which I am an expert.

Instead, I want to write about what do you do when you realize you’re not the sharpest crayon in the box or the brightest star in the sky? What do you do when you’re confronted with your lack?

Recently, a co-worker wrote about some uber-smart high school kids. I mean, these kids know stuff — physics and calculus and where to put commas and how to use “effect” and “affect” correctly.

After reading about these kids I felt all kinds of not very bright.

Sometimes when I’ve gone to seminars or workshops with other journalists, I’ve come away measuring myself against my peers, realizing that my thinking lacks depth and that I forget things easily and rarely retain what I read. I don’t understand complex things, like government budgets. I may nod my head like I understand, but I really don’t, not until someone puts things in kindergarten language for me.

Just today I was reading a blog post and the blogger wrote, “It reminded me of a poem by the Persian poet, Rumi.”

Huh? Who reads Persian poetry?

OK, so here’s the deal. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know and probably never will. Some things I simply do not comprehend, like math beyond figuring out the price of a $29.99 sweater marked down by 40 percent with an additional 15 percent off on Tuesday only. ($15.29 using reciprocals — and a calculator.)

There’s so much I don’t know and can’t do, so many areas in which I lack and so many talents I don’t have. I could easily drift into a pit of gray gloom and woe and poor meism.

And so, I suppose, could you. But my best guess is that’s not where God would have us dwell.

Not to go all Pollyanna on you, but focusing on what you don’t have or can’t do and never will, no matter what it may be, negates who and what you’ve been created for.

In God’s economy, everyone has a purpose; everyone has been given something useful to do. Every gift and talent counts and each one has value and import and significance.

As the prayer goes: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That applies to more than just people in AA trying to stay sober.

There’s serenity in knowing that I’ll never be everything I want to be or everything people think I am or should be. I’m not a brainiac high schooler. I’m not someone who’s reminded of Persian poems. I don’t have great wisdom and can’t play the piano or tennis or spell the word “occasionally” correctly without looking it up or using Spell-check. I’ve never read Proust.

And I’m OK with that, because God has given me other, specific abilities and gifts, and that makes me exactly who God wants me to be, no more and no less.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached via email at

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