Seeing the word “grace” in several recent newspaper accounts about the school district, was a welcome change from the cruel words that have washed over us and difficult situations in which we have found ourselves over the past year. “Grace”? How do you live with the word “grace”? It is different from the word “service” which was the key word for last year’s school year as selected by the district. “Service” is an active word. We can do something with service. But what do you do with the word “grace”? To me, “grace” is an attitude that colors all of life. In common parlance we might say it is “cutting the other guy some slack.”
It isn’t a word we hear very often unless it is associated with a description of a “gracious and loving God” or the “grace” we receive as forgiven people of God.” A word used by the Christian church. No, “grace” is harder to twist into a secular situation and particularly in these days. And yet it is a word that was never needed more.
How do we meet people who have survived the west coast fires or the east coast hurricanes? How do we approach people in the middle of protests and times of racial injustice? How do we look eye to eye with the folks who come to the Food Bank or apply for assistance in these days of economic recession? How do we honor peoples’ pain and the suffering and the struggles of their lives both in our own country and the world, unless we become a grace-filled people?
That is a huge order in these days of tightly held and frequently parochial belief systems. As our days shorten, may we pray to have lived a grace-filled life. Grace-filled means looking at the lives of others with understanding, with a humility that shows I know I do not know what their lives are like. I cannot make decisions for them, but in humility allow them to show me what they need and more importantly tell me who they are without my own prejudices attached.
Many years ago I remember attending a discussion about poverty in Dawson County. Several of the people at the gathering were women who were poor — single moms — joblessness was a key word in the discussions. How to accept food commodities in order to feed their children and do it with grace even though they were angry at the circumstances that had put them in this place. Those of us attending needed the grace to keep silent; needed the grace to honor their anger and accept the integrity of their lives.
“Grace” does not judge another. “Grace” accepts the situation and those involved and then moves on from that point. For the school district to take the word “grace” as a key word for this year lays a responsibility on the whole community. The word is not only for the students in their dealings with each, but for we adults to look at our lives in this time and place and to attempt to live a grace-filled life as we journey with those around us.
Over twenty years ago, attending to my first funeral service, I found a prayer that described the life of the deceased. I have used it often over the years as I came to know and serve many “grace-filled” people. “We thank thee, O God, for all the goodness and courage which have passed from the life of this your servant into the lives of others, leaving the world better than it was; for a life’s task faithfully and honorably discharged, for gracious and kindly generosity, for sadness met without surrender and weakness endured without defeat. Glory be to you, O Lord Most High.”