Specialization is a great concept. It allows economies to grow and thrive, and it allows individuals to dive deeply into a certain area of interest. A lot of us want to spend time with (perhaps even date or marry) those who we view as our intellectual peers, and the idea of specialization allows each of us to feel like a subject matter expert in our area of specialty while leaving room for others to shine in their own brilliance.
For instance, last night I was at a birthday party (Grant‘s birthday party, actually), and while the birthday boy was introducing me around, we stopped for a while to talk with his friend James.
James is a tall glass of water – broad-shouldered and well over six foot – with a messy mop of brown hair. At one point, Grant asked James, “Hey, how’s your hand, man?” James produced his hand with a shrug, saying that it was “healing up alright.”
Grant suddenly looked around the group, excited, and asked us, “Hey, can anyone guess how he got this wound?” A couple of the girls glanced at it and answered with a giggle, “A paper cut!” But I took James’ hand in my own and studied it for a moment.
The deep gash looked like a cut, but it was wide and confined to the length of two fingers on the inside of his palm. I glanced down at James’ attire: jeans, boots and a huge belt buckle. I smiled to myself and declared with confidence, “A rope burn.”
Grant and James both looked at me in surprise, eyes bugging out. “Wow! Yeah… you’re right…” Grant could not seem to wrap his mind around the fact that I had identified the wound so quickly, so I shrugged to James and admitted, “I was an EMT during my college years.”
A little while later, I glanced up at the TV screen mounted on the wall, where sports had been airing all night. I recognized one of the four sportscasters, but I couldn’t but a name to his face. He was a large, black man who looked like a former athlete I used to root for, so I leaned over to James and shouted over the noise, “Hey, who’s that sportscaster on the far left?”
James glanced up to the TV for about half a second and said simply, “Shaq.”
“Oh, yeah,” I agreed, nodding. “I knew I recognized him. I was going to say either Shaq or Emmitt Smith.”
My comment was made in all sincerity; I am really that ignorant of professional athletes, but James thought it was so funny that he yelled across the table to Grant. “HA! Did you hear what she just said?!”
James relayed the story to Grant, who laughed and said, “It’s basketball on the TV! Why would you think it was Emmitt Smith?”
I shrugged meekly. I wasn’t trying to be funny; just displaying my sports ignorance for all to see.
When Grant saw my discomfort, his face transformed immediately to one of warmth and affection. “Don’t ever change, Aurora,” he told me with an intensity to his gaze. And he kissed my forehead.