From my September Newsletter page
For the longest time I never understood the meaning of Grace. By God’s grace people would say to me, it could have been me. Through the grace of God, others would opine, there go I. What did they mean by grace?
Then one day someone explained that Grace was an unexpected blessing, a reprieve from suffering or misfortune; that for some reason they were spared suffering or pain when others were not.
As a recovering Catholic I was raised to believe that all human beings were sinful and imperfect, that we all had to perform penance to receive God’s grace. I’ve never believed that human beings are sinful; I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. So I could never understand why some people would receive God’s grace and others would not.
Not until the explanation that opened my eyes – grace was unexpected blessings.
For this I could believe. That some would receive an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness or fortune was much more plausible. It didn’t mean someone was more special for any reason; it was something that happened to you surprisingly or unpredictably. It was luck in a way.
So when I began to watch the footage from the St. Louis area this week, my heart fluttered and sank. I was born in St. Louis, raised in the St. Louis Metro area and lived there into early adulthood. Why weren’t they receiving grace? I wanted them to be blessed. I wanted this part of the country that was such a part of me, where I still had family, where I had just traveled through on my travels to my new home here in New Jersey, to be rid of this evil, this racism, that seemed so pervasive when I lived there. Now it was on view for all to see and nothing had changed in 30 years. How do we get grace to visit these places that so desperately need unexpected blessings? With so much visible pain boiling over, how can grace heal?
I don’t know. I do know that we are actually capable of giving grace, that it’s not just in the purview of a Divine Power. We can give random acts of kindness to others; we can work to contribute to the Common Good; we can live our Seven Principles daily to the best of our ability. This indeed can be grace. These would be unexpected blessings for others.
I was traveling in Los Angeles before my trek here and pulled into a Starbucks to take a Frapucchino on the road with me. Unbeknownst to myself, I had pulled into the lot the wrong way and began to turn my car around to gain entry into the drive through lane. As I performed this maneuver, I waved at a woman to enter the line and she allowed me. I gave my order and started to pull up when she yelled out the window of her SUV, “So you couldn’t go around like everyone else, you had to cut in!” I replied that I was visiting and didn’t know I pulled in the wrong way and was sorry to inconvenience her. It rattled me though that she was so angry she felt the need to scream at me out of her car. So when I approached the window to pay for my order I asked what hers was and paid for that too. I believe it was God’s Grace that placed that thought in my head to ward off my own anger and frustration. It wasn’t intentional for me to “cut” in line, but rather than fume at the anger this woman sent my way, I decided to give a random act of kindness. I don’t know how she reacted as I just drove away afterwards, but I do know that I felt better.
Maybe that’s a first step in the world receiving more grace. If we each give acts of kindness to each other unexpectedly, then maybe it will help to dispel the acts of hate and pain that seem to occur so frequently in our world. It’s worth a try. It’s worth grace.