When was the last time you saw an act of grace?
And what was it? ‘I work in an emergency department. There are a thousand tiny acts of grace everyday – every beat of the heart – most unnoticed by the bigger, glossier world, but they add up. In essence, the acts of grace are sometimes barely noticeable as the world rages away in its current state, but they can be seen if you pay enough attention.’
There is so much to take away from this. How does grace differ from kindness? Does the anonymity make it an act of grace? Is it in some ways, a more revolutionary form of kindness which encompasses mercy, love, and forgiveness, even to those who have done nothing to deserve it? ‘I think the important part of grace is it’s undeserved, not earned or merited – it’s something you don’t technically need to do but can change everything. What do you think?’
I don’t think I’m too concerned about the differences between the two. What I really care about though is the fact that the world could use a whole lot more of both. I think if I had to take away just one thing from the conversations I’ve had about grace and kindness, it would be the bit about attention. Yes I’ve highlighted that word to draw more attention to it too. Maybe it’s just me and the type of research work that I’ve been involved with, but the news seems to highlight such grim realities every day. If it’s not the latest update of new coronavirus cases, it’s the unemployment rate, salary cuts, explosions, bushfires, and so on. 2020 has truly been such a challenging year, but if you look hard enough, there are daily manifestations too of generosity, grace, and overcoming. We just need to focus our attention.
Just last week, I was pushing the pram and trying to balance a very wieldy and huge stack of books as I try and get through the double gates of the childcare centre. A postie, who is in the middle of a phone call via his headphones, parks his sack track to the side and quickly jumps in front of me to open both gates for me. I try and thank him verbally, but he is still in mid-conversation on the phone, so I emphatically nod to gesture my thanks. He quickly gives me a wave to acknowledge and hurriedly goes his way. Grace? Kindness? It seemed like such a miniscule moment. I highly doubt that the postie even realized how much I appreciated it – his concentration was mostly on the conversation he was having on the phone and the quick, long strides he was taking made it evident he was running late to a delivery. Still, he didn’t hesitate to stop and help out a mum, even if it delayed him by a few more seconds. Again, is that grace, is that kindness, is it character? What matters to me is that I am able to pay attention to moments like that – the restorative nature of kindness and grace. It almost acts like a healing balm to the pain and the hurt that 2020 has brought with it. It’s not meant to blind us from the suffering that surrounds us, but it helps keep us strong and resilient, not just for ourselves, but for those we love and care for, for those who are suffering more than we are. We’re able to listen and witness the harsh realities, but because of the grace and kindness we give and receive, we’re able to keep seeing the joy in spite of hard times.
The acts of grace do change everything. A kind gesture changes how we feel, how we think, and ultimately what we pay attention to.