“Grace has been defined as the outward expression of the inner harmony of the soul ”~William Hazlitt.
One of my mother’s four older sisters was called Grace. She was named for their mother, my grandmother. My Auntie Grace was a character, with a wicked sense of humor and a ready laugh. She died when I was still a child, so I did not get to spend much time with her. I have two abiding memories of her. When I was very small, I thought I could be a ballerina. I remember visiting her house, playing dress up, and then entertaining her by prancing around her living room in my imitation of a ballet dancer (singing my own version of the music). My aunt would give me all encouragement, retreating every once in a while to ‘put on the kettle’ so she could go in the kitchen and ‘have a good laugh’, never allowing my feelings to be hurt. It was when I was older I heard the real reason for the trip to the kitchen!
When I was 10, while visiting the UK from Jamaica, I was at her house and told her that I couldn’t ride a bicycle. She got out her son’s bike, and in one afternoon had me riding unsupported. At first she set me off on the slight slope of their drive, but when that wasn’t long enough she held me upright on the road and ran alongside me until I got enough steam and could keep my balance without her steadying hand. I have no idea how many times I fell, or how many times she ran alongside me, but I owe my cycling ability to her. I believe it was less than 2 years later that she died of breast cancer, a disease that at the time was not discussed.
I have a niece –well actually a great-niece also called Grace. She was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes when she was only 4 years old. She has been handling the needles and fingersticks and the dietary measures and the recognition of symptoms of high and low blood glucose for over 14 years now. She (and her mother) have not only learned to cope with the challenges, they have become champions for the cause; involved in community support groups and fund-raising activities, raising awareness of a disease that is not well understood and at present is incurable (short of a pancreas transplant). It is a scary disease, with untold potential complications, yet they face it together (with the support of their family) with grace.
I have been thinking of this word, grace, in regards to accepting gifts. Many of us are comfortable giving, not so comfortable receiving, whether it is actual gifts, or kind words. How many people do you know, who when you pay them a compliment immediately reject it. ‘This old dress? I got it on sale’ or other such response. I remember reading years ago that it is a typical female thing, to downplay compliments. The article suggested that we should graciously say ‘thank you’ instead. Why is it so hard for us to accept? The author Brene Brown suggests that we prefer to be in the position of giving because it gives us the power in a relationship. Therefore when we are given gifts, it means that we are weak, that we need to be helped. I am not sure that it is true, but I know many people who love to give, but have a hard time receiving. My mother told me years ago, that it is important to be a gracious receiver, to truly appreciate the thought, time and money that another person has spent on you.
And so I decided that Grace actually means ‘Gratefully Accepting Everything’. For when we think of those who demonstrate grace, they not only graciously accept the good, they appear to keep their calm and cope with the bad also. They maintain composure even as life throws curve balls their way. They hold their head high and roll with the punches. Grace under pressure. That is the test indeed.
This week I sat with a student who had suffered an extreme loss, yet she had not confided in any of her instructors, even as she struggled to keep up with the rigors of nursing school. Like many of us she had been raised to be strong, not to ask for help. In a documentary on Katrina, the filmmaker speaks of resilience, and the expectation that some (Black people in particular) are expected to be able to overcome overwhelming odds, and so they are not provided with the tools and support needed to heal and recover.
I wonder why we call the prayer of gratitude spoken before meals the grace? And yet this again embodies this concept of demonstrating appreciation; valuing the effort that went into the preparation of the meal regardless of how simple or fancy it is. There is the amusing grace: ‘Some have meat and have no teeth; some have teeth and have no meat; we have teeth and we have meat so let us eat!’ My father would often turn the grace into a little summary of his day, or gratitude for those who visited. Once he thanked ‘the lady who prepared the rice’. That happened to be me, but dementia had robbed him of the recognition of his daughter.
This Friday morning may your soul be harmonious! May you have an aunt who will watch you without laughing as you dance. May you face adversity with grace, gratefully accepting everything, both good and bad. And don’t forget to ask for help if you need it!
Have a wonderful weekend Family!