Can you believe it is the end of January already! I hope that all of your renewed commitments and new resolutions for 2013 are going well.
I had the pleasure of celebrating a milestone anniversary with my husband in the beautiful Napa Valley. It was a wonderful way to rejuvenate, reminisce, and think about what is important in our lives.
As time seems to go faster and faster with each passing year, I find myself looking for ways to capture the moments and save the memories of people and places that have made a difference in my life.
Launching Vacations That Matter has helped me put “Grace into Action,” so today I’d like to share my inspiration with you.
Putting Grace Into Action
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”—Margaret Mead
An executive reads at a local school during his family vacation. A mother receives a gift of much-needed food and immediately shares it with another hungry family. An elderly man distributes sandwiches every evening to the homeless in his neighborhood park. A teen spends her vacation building houses for poor families rather than scuba-diving.
Unlike news headlines that shout out bad news and horrific happenings, goodness often reveals itself quietly. The people doing the good work, true everyday leaders, will likely tell you, “It’s no big deal. I’m just doing my life.”
It’s true. Those who practice grace are not saints, not perfect people. And they come from all races, ages, genders, spiritual beliefs and lifestyles. They are ordinary people doing acts of extraordinary importance.
What Kathleen A. Brehony discovered in writing her book, Ordinary Grace, is that for these people, acts of kindness lead to the kind of meaning and fulfillment that makes life worth living. In other words, we make a life by what we give.
“We all make decisions about what we will emphasize as we live our lives,” Brehony says. “Whether we ‘tune in’ and open our hearts to ordinary grace or not is a personal choice.”
The grace Brehony refers to encompasses compassion, altruism and empathy—in essence, all forms of loving-kindness, or, acting with the goal of benefiting another. These are values that most of us share. And in emergencies, such as the recent hurricanes, grace is usually more prevalent.
But many people fail to bring their everyday actions in line with their beliefs and values. We have the best of intentions, but are overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life.
What makes grace come alive and enrich the lives of both giver and receiver is action. Not just caring, but acting courageously based on that caring. “Grace in action”.
“Unless our insights result in some practical action, they are not useful at all,” says the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. “With compassion, one needs to be engaged, involved.”
Grace is not just about doing good work, but also about recognizing the inherent goodness in every human being. It’s about recognizing that despite the outer trappings—the income level, social standings, education—we all want the same essential things: our basic survival needs met, dignity, a good life for our children and meaningful connection with other humans.
We all have hundreds of opportunities a day to either pass along a spark of grace or to pass up the opportunity, leaving the world a bit older and wearier. Brehony offers 13 steps to making a difference in your life and others’ by living grace in action. Here are some of them.
Discover what you love. What’s important in your life? What’s missing?
Be prepared for pain as well as joy. It can hurt to care. But acting on that care, participating in transforming the suffering, is nurturing.
Simplify and scale down. Where in our lives is there time for grace to enter? Learn to say no to that which is not meaningful to you.
Put belief into action. Virtues such as kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness are not intended to be lofty ideals but rather modes of behavior.
Find grace in small things. Writer Alice Walker suggests, “We have to regain our belief in the power of what is small.
Build on your immediate, personal connections to others. What do these relationships mean to you? Can you build them into something stronger, more solid, deeper?
Model good behavior. Children learn mostly by what they see and hear.
And I have to say that taking a Vacation That Matters is definitely one way of putting grace into action.