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From the CENTER for the STUDY of ART & COMMUNITY: What is your gift? Why is knowing your gift important? by Puanani Burgess


Chapter 1: What is your gift? Why is knowing your gift important?

Puanani Burgess

In the past fifteen years I have developed exercises which are part of a community-building and conflict transformation process I call, “Building the Beloved Community.”  In one of the anchor exercises I call, “Guts on the Table,” I ask people to tell three stories.  The name of the exercise,“Guts on the Table,” comes from the Hawaiian understanding that your na’au, your gut is the deepest place from which you think:  it’s the place where your mind, heart, intuition and experience come together.  It is the place where mana, your spiritual core lives.  The Hawaiian  word for thought is mana`o.

This is a formal process, a ritual.  The methodology is simple:  create a safe space and help people to find their stories and to tell them.  This exercise was designed to help people get deeper, faster.  People sit in a circle, on chairs or on the floor, and each person will tell their stories, one-by-one.  In this exercise, I usually begin

.  So, I as the facilitator will tell my stories first, and then the circle moves to my left and continues until it circles back to me.  Within the past 15 years, I have been part of over 1,008 circles.  Here are the stories people will tell:

1.  Tell the story of your names, all of your names. Usually, we just introduce ourselves with our first names and leave out all of their other names which contain much of our personal histories.  People tell the story of how they were named or who named them; the meaning of their names or how they feel about their names.  When you tell the story of your names you tell the story of your people, your family, and what you feel about your name(s).

2.  Tell the story of your community, however, each participant defines “community.” When people tell the story of community, they tell the story of how they live as part of a group.

3.  Tell the story of your gift(s). This is usually, the most difficult story for people to tell.  The belief is that if you talk about your gifts, then you will be “bragging on yourself,” which in many cultures is not appropriate behavior.  The emphasis is for people to tell what their gift(s) is/are,  rather than their skills.  The importance of this story is to enable them to wonder what their family, organization or community would be like if it were gift-based and not just skill-based.  (Most of us, when applying for a job, have only been asked to detail our skills and experiences, not our gifts.  My theory is that gift-based organizations do work that is more spiritual and satisfying and long-term.)

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