It has been attributed to everyone from Plato to Ian Maclaren* to Robin Williams. The quote we have seen on bumper stickers, shabby chic barn boards, and coffee mugs…
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
… or words to that effect.
I fear though, that the words are often read with a knowing nod and tilt of the head, received with appreciation for their simplicity and meaning – but soon forgotten when the server gets our order wrong, or no one called about the cancelled appointment. When the dingbat driving the much fancier car considers his destination far more important than mine or when the neighbor fails to pick up after his pooch.
The distracted receptionist, the committee chair that doesn’t answer a text, the postal worker who gave my Real Simple magazine to that guy down the street – AGAIN! (And I got his Muscle Machines?)
The irritations and inconveniences that make life so ding-dang daily – grinding us down by sheer frequency.
These little pebbles in our shoes that also provide unlimited opportunities to show grace to our fellow humans, no matter who they are, what they do, or how much they have to offer.
Grace – a display of unmerited kindness.
Few of us have significant enough latitude in our jobs or relationships to mess up, especially without apology or restitution. But the world is moving so fast, so much is expected for so little in payment, and so many demand perfection without allowance for circumstances, whether seen or secret. It’s exhausting and it seems impossible to keep up.
Especially during this festive time of year, silent battles are being fought behind pasted smiles and generosity. The recent loss of a loved one, the painful break of a relationship, job, housing, or food insecurities, illness, chronic pain, even a child enduring middle school – all crushing in their own way, all reasons to fall apart when the world expects celebrations and fireworks.
Even the undertow of depression and anxiety that plague some hearts and souls often saps the life from a joyously-advertised season of love and life.
My lovelies, these days, grace must prevail. Even when we get diet instead of regular or have to reschedule the appointment. Even when I’m cut off in traffic or my lawn is cruelly defiled. Even when the opposite of what should happen did happen… grace must prevail.
In abundance, no limits.
American theologian and writer, Frederick Buechner, said of grace, “There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks.”
It’s clearly not about what I’m going to get or earn – just about what I can give.
The cost, you know, is quite low – practically free. Perhaps the sacrifice of pride or a little extra patience.
The value of grace, however, cannot be measured. Think of it … in an instant, we can single-handedly rescue someone’s minute, hour, or day.
Truly, it’s getting more and more difficult to maintain civility in the world, let alone warmth or compromise. We can bring about change, though, by piling on grace, even when consequences are deserved.
We can all pass out more bowls of raspberries and cream.
How about it? Can we let the graciousness begin?
We can talk about this in the new year. For now, I pray the blessing of grace over you – both given and received, and…
Photo by Kristiana Pinne on Unsplash
*Ian Maclaren is the pen name of John Watson who is reported to have first written these words in the 1897 Christmas edition of The British Weekly.