Works to Ability

When it comes to report cards, there is a large selection of prepared comments I can select from. I doubt students or their parents realize this, but one of the most meaningful I can give a student is when I select ‘works to ability.’  I respect when people work hard and utilize whatever gifts they have been blessed with. When students don’t fulfill their potential – whatever that is – and settle for something less, I am annoyed. How dare you not do your best?

On that note, I wade into the Whitney Houston discussion.  This former gospel singer burst on the scene, and everyone fell in love with her. How could you not love her? She was fresh, beautiful, and gifted.  What an amazing voice!  She was eminently likable.  She was a commercial success beyond belief – having sold 170 million records.  Who can forget the performance she gave at the Super bowl? Every performance since has been measured against it. When I hear people eulogizing her, this is the woman they are talking about.

However, her last big album (not in comparison to the earlier albums) was in the late 90’s. It is also since that time period that she has been a drug addict and an alcoholic.  According to rumors/press, she has gone through rehab at least once, but as evidence shows, those trips were unsuccessful. In addition, it seems her daughter is on the same destructive path. So, when people call her death tragic, I can’t agree. The last decade plus of her life was a lost opportunity.  She was the opposite of someone who utilizes their skills to the utmost.  I view her similarly to Dwight Gooden, an immensely talented baseball star whose careers was tarred by addiction of various sorts. He had some spectacular and unforgettable performances.  I remember watching Dwight Gooden pitch a game against the Phillies in 1985.  The hitters were so overmatched that it didn’t seem fair.  I looked up the stats and saw he had 13 strikeouts that game while letting up 3 hits and 3 walks.  They never got close to scoring, and I remember being happy when they simply made contact. Dwight Gooden’s career stats are pretty good, but he could have been one of the greats. 

In this country, people have a chance for redemption. We are all about second chances – hell, even Marion Barry got elected to a second term.  Whitney Houston was spectacular. She fell from the pedestal and had repeated chances to redeem herself. That is sad. She wasted her talents. That is sad. Whitney Houston did not get the most out of her talents. That almost makes me angry.

One thought on “Works to Ability

  1. Her family referred to her death as an “unimaginable tragedy.” It’s certainly almost beyond imagining to know how grief stricken they must feel! I, like hordes of other people I am sure, predicted she would not see 50 if she did not turn around her addictions and stay clean. So, at that level, her death was far from “unimaginable.”

    I would definitely disagree with your statement that her death is not tragic. Who defines tragedy (other than the ancient Greek playwrights and philosophers, or course) anyway and at what levels? I would say that her death is tragic in the sense that the deaths of MIchael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland and the lists goes on and on, were tragic. I mean in the sense that people whose potentials were essentially actualized for a brief time, but who were unable to conquer addictions that held them in their power. It’s hard to put ourselves in their positions to judge whether they might have vanquished their demons with the right amount or willpower, determination, support from others or what have you. But their short stays with us were tragic in my book, not just from them and their families, but for us.

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