Snow has a way of making people live out the Golden Rule a bit better.
Perhaps this doesn’t happen for all five months of winter, but the first few snowfalls find my vehicular encounters with people more pleasant as a whole. People are more inclined to give extra space, wait for someone to pull ahead of them, use blinkers, and not honk when a car is sliding through the intersection with a clearly red light.
In short, we seem to naturally offer more grace to one another.
As I navigated the snowy roads a few nights ago, I was wondering why we find it more natural to be gracious in such situations, when normal driving conditions often bring out the frustrated side of humanity. Maybe it is because it is in our best interest to be gracious. Although the light may be green, it is clearly better for us to wait until the skidding car careens out of the intersection, rather than race toward it because the light indicates we can. Or maybe we don’t desire an accident and the headache that insurance claims naturally bring about.
But maybe, just maybe, it is because we are able to recognize a connection that goes beyond our personal best interest and draws us together as humans. The journey home in inclement weather gives me this feeling of unity that is similar to what I feel when an ambulance or fire truck or funeral procession passes by. For a moment, we are united by something that surpasses our personal desires and we acknowledge that someone else takes precedence.
Grace is often spoken of in relation to God’s free and unmerited favor toward us. While that is true and necessary, grace is also something we offer one another. The unmerited part is particularly difficult for us, though. Oftentimes, there is a natural sense of justice we have about what another deserves, but grace is giving people what they don’t deserve. We acknowledge what could be a fair response toward them and then we choose to be more generous than needed. And because it is freely given, that means it is a gift. In a moment of difficulty, we choose to bestow upon the other a gift they don’t deserve, but one which might cause them to change in some way.
Admittedly, I’m not excellent at this.
Like many of us, I presume, justice and fairness have a natural appeal to me…until I find myself in need of someone else’s unmerited favor. Recently, I forgot something important and when I reached out to the person impacted, someone I’ve struggled with feeling kindly towards, I was received with a warmth I didn’t deserve. I was left wondering if I would have responded in kind to the person, if the roles were reversed. Would my heart have responded generously? Or would I have been far more begrudging?
On the snowy drive home, I saw grace being offered more by the other drivers. It wasn’t as though everyone turned into brilliant drivers, but we were more okay with others making mistakes or taking their time. We seemed more conscious of what others could be experiencing and we responded with a kindness that made a journey home more pleasant. Perhaps it was the knowledge that similar conditions caused the deaths of two people earlier that day in the same town. Or maybe it was the realization that arriving ten minutes late was better than not at all. Or just the awareness that this cannot be controlled or managed and must simply be passed through, like so much that we experience in life and, with a particular starkness, this year.
And as I drove home, slowly changing lanes and feeling my little car fight a bit for control, I wondered what it would be like if we lived our lives like we drove that day.
Instead of seeing a fool who doesn’t know what they are doing, what if we saw the other as someone with a struggle we maybe don’t see or understand that moment?
Rather than having tunnel vision that causes us to only see ourselves, what if our gaze widened to take in others and know that while we may never know the other, our actions are mutually impactful?
I want to live with more grace. I want an expansiveness of the heart to overcome the meanness and hardness too often found there. Partly I want this because I know it is Christlike and partly I want this because I know I need other people to respond to me in this way.
As we navigate this storm, this year, and this life, may we respond with a graciousness that calls the other to be the best version of themselves. Not because we have to, but because we are all in this together, united by a common humanity on a journey from here to eternity.
Let us open our hearts to welcome all humanity. At the touch of God, let us resound with every generous thought, every human affection; let us learn to find in each soul the point at which it is still in touch with God.Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur, journal entry from April 22, 1901