If I had the chance to father a daughter, I would ask that she be called Grace. The name has a quality of mercy about it, so surely the owner of such a name would grow to value kindness, compassion and charity towards her fellow humans. I’ve only known one person named Grace and she was rather aloof, so maybe names can’t set the tone for character, but I still like the idea.
I’ve known several people to whom the value of grace was their guiding principle. One fellow from my church years, who looked perpetually 90 years old, shared a pew with me during choir practise. He carried himself with assurance, not arrogance. He would always put others before himself. He helped create quality time amongst our fellowship, never once demanding it. He wore simple clothes that suggested he wished to blend into a crowd, yet we always knew he was in the room due to his warm laughter. His favourite hymn was ‘Amazing Grace’ which seemed appropriate. Check out this lovely version by Cellist Patrick Dexter.
Shakespeare’s play, ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is one of my favourites from The Bard’s collection. While not without controversy, the characters do a wonderful job personifying several human values. After reading the play and performing a few lines in a classroom setting, my English teacher took our class to Stratford, Ontario to watch and learn. I remember being breathless throughout most of the scenes. We all felt somehow smarter after the performance, even a bit older. On the return trip, a small knot of us nerds gathered at the back of the bus to debate. We concluded that the opposite of Greed was not Charity, but Grace. (That’s why being greedy is so disgraceful) We didn’t do a High Five back then, but we knew we were cool.
Currently, in our bathroom there is a strip of wise sayings meant to start our day off on the right foot. One square offers a challenge: “Instead of Perfection, Seek Grace.” Sometimes it is easier to offer grace to another when we see they are in need of forgiveness or human comfort. To recognize in ourselves those same needs seems selfish. To attend to our own hurt, feels self serving. Etymologically, Grace comes from the latin word Gratis which suggests a gift freely given. Here is where we can begin: By recognizing that we are all members of a community, deserving of grace that is unreservedly given to all who assemble here.
A family tradition my wife and I followed when my three sons were growing up was saying grace at dinner. It wasn’t really a religious observance so much as an expression of gratitude. We would each offer a story of our day, highlighting who or what we were thankful for. Conversation often flowed gracefully to individual experiences. Our eldest described his frustration over a Lego model that didn’t turn out properly.“It looked different from the instruction picture,” he shrugged. “Just like people!” Amen.