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I See Smart People

It was a tiny shop, specializing in cheap souvenirs for tourists. The girl was probably ten or eleven years old; slim and long legged, still without any hint of womanly curves. I first noticed her because she was clutching the latest Harry Potter book tightly to her chest. I took a second glance and saw the wire-rimmed eyeglasses and JHU/CTY lanyard around her neck. She must have recently attended a summer program offered by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.

I had a strange urge to talk to this girl. I could tell that she was gifted. She never looked in my direction though, and I didn't want to be intrusive. What would I say anyway? I might ask her if she enjoyed the CTY program, or what she thought of Harry Potter's last adventure. Ultimately though, I think it was enough for me just to have quietly observed her for a few minutes. If her parents had been present, I might have enjoyed talking to them for a bit, but she appeared to be alone.

This sort of incident happens to me fairly often. I see smart people. I notice the long haired teenage boy teen reading “Guns Germs, and Steel” at the restaurant table, and the one year old who is picking out letters at the grocery store as his mother pushes the carriage through the aisles. I get a strange thrill out of talking with a well read old gentleman at the car service waiting area, and find myself opening up to him. His granddaughter is at West Point. He's an amazing fellow, and I wish I'd had nerve enough to ask to stay in touch with him.

I have had similar feelings of recognition when traveling far from my childhood home, and then coming across an individual from the same area. “Ah! You're from East Suburbia? I grew up in West Suburbia!” is the way it generally goes, with the conversation dwindling rapidly as we exhaust our supply of people and places in common. It's different with gifted people. Conversation usually flows more readily, although the most introverted “gifties” may prefer not to engage in discourse with a stranger.

If you see smart people too, chances are high that you are gifted. The old adage, “it takes one to know one” rings true here, just as a cop will almost always recognize another man or woman “on the job” and a trained dancer will immediately see the posture of a fellow dancer. It's not really socially acceptable to approach an unfamiliar person and tell them that they are gifted, but perhaps you can praise their taste in books and give them an excuse to smile. It can't hurt, and maybe you'll find a new friend for yourself or for your child. Who are the gifted people in your community?

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