Grace can be taught. And the lesson can often be painful to learn. I embarrassed my parents publicly for the first time when I was just six years old. I remember the experience well. My bratty behavior at the Christmas family dinner party in my father's workplace showed disrespect for his colleague who generously had given her evening to entertain the children present with the “Night Before Christmas.” I consistently interrupted her and blurted out the next line as if I were the next Albert Einstein.
On the ride home, my father informed me that I would be getting a lesson from his board of education as it was applied to the seat of my learning. I deserved it. What I did not anticipate was the harder part of my lesson: a personal apology not only to my parents but also to his colleague, whose work I had essentially destroyed and whose generosity I had disrupted.
I walked to her house the next day. By myself. My instructions were clear: apologize and repent. Place myself at her mercy. She received me warmly, accepted my apology with grace, and offered me a fresh start. A second chance, an opportunity for redemption. She understood that I, as a human being, had the capacity for change, to grow and learn from my mistakes. Neither she, nor anyone at my father's workplace, ever mentioned the events of that evening again.
The lesson was clear: I had made an embarrassing mistake. I had acknowledged my mistake and asked for forgiveness. In doing so, I received the opportunity to learn from my mistake and grow forward. Grace taught; grace accepted. Grace learned.
Sadly, it appears that, in 2009, grace has left the building.
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