I find myself pondering grace on this most solemn of days. I know I have written words on the subject before, but this word, this state of being, draws me into its possibilities. Often I think about what grace is not, yet that isn’t grace.
So…what is grace?
It is being there for a friend in her pain or grief or loneliness.
Grace is understanding.
It is kindness, a smile, a compliment.
Grace is letting go of past resentments, of anger, of mistakes made.
It is sitting in silence.
Grace is seeing people, moving in closer.
It is a presence. It is humility. It is acceptance over judgement.
Grace is a rainbow, a wash of colors across a sky as the sun peeks out after a storm.
It is always learning, always opening a new page, always seeing the potential.
Grace is seeing our differences as the beautiful wonders they are.
Grace swirls around as I stumble. It ignores my clumsiness and awkward actions. It is there, waiting as I trip over my anger, my envy, my stubbornness, my overblown ego. It finds me, even when I am not looking.
Grace is the truth. Grace is an open door. Grace is a seat at the table. Grace is thank you.
Grace is admitting I have been wrong, and offering ways to mend it. Saying, “I’m sorry. What can I do to fix it?”
Grace is acknowledging my brokenness, my scars. Seeing the beauty in the cracks. As Leonard Cohen wrote, “It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”
Grace is my husband’s hand in mine…the sound of our grandchildren’s voices…a phone call or text from one of our adult children, just wanting to catch up…spending time with dear friends, swapping stories and listening to all of our joys and heartaches…sitting on our front porch swing, grateful for the peace it brings.
“A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.” James Baldwin, The First Next Time
“I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.” – Albert Camus, The Plague
“There is no dignity in wickedness, whether in purple or rages; and hell is a democracy of devils, where all are equal.” – Herman Melville
How do we navigate the struggles in this world? Where do we gather the strength to battle the demons that inhabit society? Who do we turn to when our hearts are cracked wide open? How do we fix the broken light in the deep darkness of our souls? What gives us the courage to confront evil? Are we all so mangled in the mire that we can’t see beyond our own shores?
What if we bravely walked beyond the smashed glass, opened our hearts, expanded our minds, and looked past our egos? Could we offer dignity where we see indecency? Empathy instead of judgement? Grace in place of neglect? Kindness rather than hatred? Compassion, not cruelty?
Could we live, thrive, love, feed, embrace, and love with rapture? Or is the world too harsh, too cruel, too mean, too small, too evil? Do we accept defeat? Or do we scream into the wind, summoning strength for another battle?
What if today we decided to support dignity, breathe empathy, enfold grace, grasp kindness, and devour compassion? How would the world around us react to such behavior? Would it cower? Would it laugh? Or perhaps, it would blink in surprise? And what if the world then began to mimic our words, our acts, our hearts?
Dignity is an elevation of character, a worthiness in the world. We all deserve dignity, yet with every hateful epithet, dignity is lessened. Humans should be able to walk through life with pride.
Dignity is our inalienable right.
Empathy is seeing the troubles of others. It is identifying with their misery and wanting to alleviate it.
Empathy is our hearts bursting from our chests, exposing our salty tears.
Grace is the possession of mercy, goodwill, and honor. It is how we conduct our lives, our place at the table, inviting others to join us.
Grace is our truth.
Kindness is our behavior. It is a smile, a gesture, an open door, a generous tip. Our hearts reach out to grab others with love. It is courage wrapped in a whisper of silk.
Kindness is omnipotent.
Compassion is deep sympathy. It is our tenderness. It is our hearts, full and accepting. We feel others hurt. We acknowledge their pain. We sit with their sorrow. We respect their troubles.
Compassion is our humanness.
So what if today we opened our doors to difficult truths? Listened to others? Held each other in solidarity? Tasted bitterness, yet still accepted the food? And lit a candle to wipe away the gloom?
What if for just today we saw dignity in each other, empathized with the downtrodden, walked in grace, spread kindness, and felt compassion for all suffering?
Could we change the world?
“Without dignity, identity is erased.” ― Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken
“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” – Audrey Hepburn
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” -Og Mandino
“There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and compassionate.” – Robert Frost
That song seems to be reverberating in my head lately. The world appears to be saturated with mean spirited, hateful, bigoted, selfish, and rotten individuals spewing venom through their vile words and behavior. There are presidential candidates rallying fear. There are government officials boasting their superiority over others. There are guns everywhere, yet no one is safe. There are “churches” that hail hate as their doctrine. Everyone is pointing fingers. Victims abound.
“Where’d all the good people go?”
This got me thinking about the qualities of “good people.” What makes a good person?
A good person has honor. She gives her word and follows up on promises.
A good person possesses grace. Grace is something that comes from within. A person with grace is kind and good and full of heart.
A good person is grateful. He doesn’t brag about what he has or feel jealous when others have more. He is grateful for the simple joys in his life.
A good person has compassion. She empathizes with others. She gives of her time and her money. She reaches out to her friends and helps strangers. Her smile is sincere.
A good person is accepting. He may not agree with others, but he accepts other views. He reserves judgment.
I am lucky to have many good people in my life. They hug longer, judge less, laugh with glee, and make this world fine and glorious. They know who they are, and I am grateful every day for their passion. They are full of honor and grace and gratitude and compassion and acceptance. They are the “good people.”
So, turn off the news, power down your phone, and tune out the spoiled and the wicked. Seek out the good people in your life. They are our greatest joys.
“What a great favor God does to those he places in the company of good people.”