GRACE

It’s Friday, April 24, 2020.

On this day 3,302 or 3,303 years ago, depending on the source, Troy fell to the Greeks, who used the old Trojan horse trick – which, then, was the first-time-ever Trojan horse trick.

Do you find yourself angry a lot these days?

It’s OK. You’re among friends.

I know I do. I’m angry a lot.

There are circumstances that make me angry and feel powerless to change or control.

There are people who make me angry, but railing at them today would defeat the purpose of this. So the prior sentence is the last you’ll see of anger on the page you’re reading. I hope.

So I’m doing a little experiment today. 

I’m reaching deep to see joy and grace and beauty at a time when those virtues are as direly needed as a roll of paper towels.

I’ve been lucky – no family member I know of has been afflicted with COVID-19.

I know that’s not true of others. My friends. My students. 

And for them, the tragedy of caring for a sick loved one is compounded by the maddening frustration that they must leave that loved one by face this disease alone.

So the first gift of grace I would want to bestow is on them. That those they love can feel that love amid the wires and the tubes and the noisy machines. Not only their love, but ours by proxy – both for the afflicted and the affected.

That extends to the people in the hospitals and nursing homes caring for them. 

I can’t imagine the trauma of dealing with so much tragedy. 

But when you see them on TV crying for those they couldn’t save and clapping for those they did, I think something a curmudgeonly friend of mine long passed once said – “You’re a freakin’ stone if you’re not crying.”  (Ed. note: He didn’t exactly say “freakin.”)

I’ve said I want a ticker-tape parade for these people when this is all over. But I do realize a ticker-tape parade is not optimal anytime soon given the circumstances.

So let’s be creative and think of something wonderful and, at the same time, healthy to show how much all of us appreciate the grace and beauty of health care workers and all the others rightly lionized in this crisis.

How about a new national holiday – a real one, in which everyone has the day off, combining the joyous elements of Independence Day with the somber moments of Memorial Day? 

I’d call it Life Day – honoring and remembering the people who enhance and protect it.

And there should be a monument on the Mall in Washington for those who fight this war and win it, and for those who have persished in it.

Grace is not limited to those who are deemed essential workers – many of whom never thought of themselves or were treated as that – in this crisis.

It comes in the signs in people’s yards – some mass produced, others individual and humble – extolling those essential workers. 

I see them when I walk or run near where I live and – when I do – I know the people who live there get it. They want themselves and the workers – and even you and me – to live and share joy.

Grace also comes from the good things of life that were there all along – but are appreciated more now that we’re limited to them in our homes.

Five years ago tonight, my wife, some friends and I saw Vienna Teng sing at a club in New York. She’s a wonderful singer-songwriter – and listening to her music today reminds me that there’s beauty in a lyric, in a melody, in the arrangement.

I’m reading a terrific biography of Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight. A work of incredible scholarship that won the Pulitzer Prize last year.

Great writers of all types bring knowledge and joy – especially now that we have more time to read. And that is grace bestowed on us.

Finally, of course, because it is how I spent most of the first 66 years of my life, grace comes from the journalism we see every day.

The reporters standing in the hospital hallways and calling sources. The editors working at home to make copy readable.

And, in a special state of grace, are writers and editors trying to do this while a young child 10 feet away needs help with school work, a toy fixed or a diaper changed.

It’s easy to despair right now. It’s easy to see the mounting death toll and worry about ourselves and those we love. It’s easy to fear that the cratering economy will wreck our homes and our way of living for a very long time. It’s easy to get frustrated with not being able to go where we want.

And it’s OK to be angry about a lot of it. 

Not me – today, anyway. I’ll be angry tomorrow.

Today, I’m going to think about the grace of the people helping us survive, and the grace of the people who entertain and inform us, and the grace of those whose love is given to those who need it – even when those who need it can’t see those giving the love.

So I wish you the following:

Joy. 

Beauty. 

Grace. 

Peace.

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