Appreciating our Gifts: Andrea Bocelli, the Barefoot Contessa and Dirk Nowitski

On a recent flight from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Dallas, I read the lead article in the January 2013 issue of American Way Magazine. It was about the Italian classical music singer Andrea Bocelli. Bocelli has tremendous natural talent, but he also has worked hard to hone and cultivate it. The result is 22 albums with 75 million copies sold worldwide. Celine Dion, with whom Bocelli performed the Golden Globe–winning and Academy Award–nominated duet “The Prayer,” quipped that “If God could sing, He would sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.

The American Way article informed me that Bocelli, now 54, was born with congenital glaucoma, He always had weak eyesight, but when he was 12, he was hit in the head with a soccer ball during a game and became completely blind. He credits the Divine for the gift of his voice, although he’s not sure why it was bestowed upon him. “God has his own design,” he says. “Everyone has gifts. What you have to do is be aware of them and cultivate them and love them. Very often people are not aware of their own talents because they get lost in wishing for the talents of others.”

I was drawn to his statement that people get lost in wishing for the talents of others. I wish I had a solo voice like the woman in the choir I sing in whose voice I secretly envy. I could tell myself that, if I practiced and took voice lessons, I could sing like she does. Except that it’s not true. I don’t have the natural instrument. So I have learned to replace wishing I could sing like she does to appreciating hearing her lovely voice. And valuing my own pleasant, blend-in alto voice.

Recently I was watching the Food Network while getting my hair cut. The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) was in Napa on vacation. From what?  I asked myself. Anyway, she was having a dinner party. I watched as she halved ripened figs and wrapped them in prosciutto for an appetizer, whipped up scallops au gratin for a main course, and crafted homemade white chocolate bark for dessert. There were a couple of other dishes she made, but I got distracted by the white chocolate bark. I looked her up on my phone while watching her pour the melted chocolate into the buttered pan and found that she is a former White House nuclear policy analyst who taught herself to cook out of her passion for  cooking with fresh ingredients accessible to busy people.

I came home and was making Santa Fe Stew. I’ll give you the recipe if you like. It hit me in a flash of insight why she is the Barefoot Contessa and I am not. No one would pay to watch me open cans of beans and rotelli tomatoes, rip open packets of taco seasoning and dry ranch dressing mix and pour them in my crock pot.

Cooking at the foodie level requires natural talent and a passion for the nuances of food. I lack the latter, but I could be a better cook if I cooked more. Rather than envy the Barefoot Contessa I could learn from her.

I like basketball and was on the team in high school, but I do not wish I could play basketball like Dirk Nowitski. I am too old. I am 5’6 and ½” tall. Such envy would be an even more blatant waste of time than envying the woman with the lovely voice I mentioned earlier.

I  don’t wish I could sing like Dirk Nowitski either. Listen to Dirk’s rendition of “We Are the Champions” during the Dallas Mavericks championship celebration at American Airlines Center in 2011.

I have a nice alto voice and I could be a better cook.

Thanks to the naturally gifted, hardworking Andrea Bocelli for this reminder that

“Everyone has gifts. What you have to do is be aware of them and cultivate them and love them. Very often people are not aware of their own talents because they get lost in wishing for the talents of others.”



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