The Gift of Grace
Even though Thanksgiving is officially over and we’re on the quick run to Christmas, the notion of being thankful is staying with me. I’ve always considered myself to be a really lucky person, and I have lived a privileged life in many ways. My gratitude is nearly constant these days. Who knew that getting older would bring with it a daily highlight reel of the lovely moments of my life? I expect it’s part of the grand scheme of things, an opportunity to rest a bit from the constant stresses of life. It’s as if we finally have a chance to hold each of those moments in the palm of our hand, like a precious agate from an early morning walk on the beach.
Grace is the room we give each other to expand into the people we know we are in our hearts.
When my friend Lowry was in her late 90s, shortly before she died, she began talking about her old friends, the Brown sisters. We’d known Lowry for more than a decade and she’d never mentioned these friends of hers. At the time I wondered if her memory was failing and these women were people she might have just conjured up. But I know now that, in a certain way, our minds and hearts actually get clearer as we age. They are not filled with the jumble of how to make a living, or ways to communicate with our kids, or how we will manage to repair our cars and still make rent. Instead, rushes of memories of other times present themselves to me daily. And, in nearly each one, what really stands out is grace—being loved, cared for, seen, recognized, forgiven, and appreciated by someone who went out of their way to be kind to me. I expect that, in some way, the Brown sisters probably did that for Lowry.
I’ve been the lucky recipient of grace more times than I can count or deserve. It’s that moment when someone asks you a real question about your life and then actually listens. It’s when a friend pays attention to what’s going on in your life and asks you about it before you have a chance to bring it up. More than anything, I feel like I’ve been given the room to be who I am in my life and my friends have had the grace to move with me, to support me, and even to question me if I seem to be going over some edge.
The big lesson, of course, is to offer grace in return. In a weird way, it’s so much easier not to, of course, because grace requires time and patience and vulnerability. And I’m sure that’s why it means so much when someone listens to us, lets us process our lives, or pats us on the back when we’ve acted like an idiot. It’s the sense that a person has made a space for us in their lives or their day. And truthfully, unlike what I might have felt or thought when I was young, it doesn’t happen all that often.
On Thursday, when we rounded the Thanksgiving table and each talked about what we feel grateful for, I said that I feel so lucky to have been loved and accepted by the people in my life. For those who are kind of enough to tell me good things they notice in me, or selfless enough to share an opportunity, or loving enough to sit with me when I need a companion.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so much older now, or because it’s the holidays, but I am filled with gratitude for all these gestures of grace that have been passed my way. I hope in some way that I offer love and support and care and understanding in return. These often seem like superhuman efforts, especially when we are the recipients, but they have meant more than anything. It is so much greater than houses or money or jobs or cars. Grace is the room we give each other to expand into the people we know we are in our hearts. It requires sincerity and time and attention, but the return is priceless. Believe me.