In fact, the only cure for this particular election-year fever, if not more cowbell, might just be a little more grace.
A Caroline Center trainee once shared these insightful words of advice with her fellow trainees – and, I am paraphrasing her–“Each of us has a little of Mother Caroline* inside of us. When we graduate, we will take her work and her vision out into the world. Whatever we do–as nursing assistants, pharmacy technicians, and in life–we need to do her and Caroline Center proud.”
Now, that’s grace. Well, at least in the active-verb-kind-of-way that I am thinking about.
grace/grās/v. To honor or credit someone or something by one’s presence.
We believe that grace is a quality that all Caroline Center graduates have in good measure. It’s the virtue that allows our alumnae to move with confidence into their new careers and through life.
You may recognize these familiar words – “Know Before Whom You Stand”– in Hebrew, Da Lifnei Mi Atah Ohmed. Inscribed above the Ark in synagogue, these words offer a rich and timely reminder that as members of the human race we need to practice humility, learn from everyone, and recognize the divine within all.
Living with grace. It’s not so terribly difficult. And, we can learn by recent example.
The unlikely friendship that so beautifully bridged partisan lines and that so many are celebrating between U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia (of blessed memory) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is worthy of our attention. Scalia and Ginsburg, both brilliant scholars, the revered “intellectual lions of the right and left,”** somehow found immeasurable value and great joy in nurturing a deep friendship. They were able to build bridges and to forge a strong bond based on mutual respect that was rooted in the courage of conviction, love of the arts, humor, and genuine laughter that fully embraced a shared and finite humanity.
The justices found nothing “disgraceful” in their differing opinions. Dissonance was not a reason to go on attack, but rather a welcomed grace note that embellished the intricate melody line of their enlightened conversations. Their friendship rose above opposing ideologies and brought down walls. They were able to overcome selfishness and self-centered thinking for the sake of moving the important work of living in a free society forward – and, moving that work forward gracefully, in an active-verb-kind-of-way, by bestowing honor on the work and on others around them simply with their presence.
Knowing before whom you stand and living with grace.
I, for one, am humbled and grateful that I will continue to learn in equal measure from all whom I come to know. Whether that learning comes from the women of Caroline Center or the justices of the Supreme Court or someone I may meet once and not see again. Each day, I am more convinced that our teachers, good teachers, are all around us and close at hand. And, that the real prescription for this election-year fever and for weathering the winds of change truly might be just a little more grace.
*Mother Caroline Friess (1824-1892) founded the congregation of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in North America. In its mission and work, Caroline Center honors her pioneering spirit and commitment to educating women; and, we are inspired by her courage to reach out to people whom society may have left behind.
**from “BFFs Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia agree to disagree,” LA Times David G. Savage, February 22, 2016