True Grace: The Power of Inner Sensibility
When you witness Grace in someone, it shines like nothing else.
Posted May 24, 2019
Generosity without Grace can be very cruel.
Much of who we are is what we do, rather than what we know or think.
The idea of Grace is often misunderstood. It goes well beyond just being socially elegant, polite, or charitable. You either have it or you don't. There is no halfway house.
When you witness Grace in someone, it shines like nothing else. Not only does it always leave a sense of hope behind, but something to learn.
My friend Jeremiah is such a man.
I first met Jeremiah on the New Haven Line, traveling out of New York to Connecticut.
The train was, as ever, full. The heat had conspired to make the air inside the car especially rank, the smells of takeaway, conflicting perfumes, and general human tiredness colliding into an olfactory mishmash.
In the midst of all the usual set of executives came to sit a very incongruous, forty-something Rastafarian. He wore a beard that looked like the moths had feasted well, clunky boots, and mismatched clothes. Immediately, he leaned back, eyes closed, quite happy in his own suspended world. Though he had earplugs in, one could hear the distant reggae of Jamaica.
Next to him, the man with red trouser braces and a tight polka-dot bowtie looked wildly around for another place, but of course, there was nowhere else to sit. He clutched his handcrafted, epee - leather attaché to his chest and huddled tightly against the window.
Opposite, bedecked head to toe in swirling designer fabrics, she sat: a powerful-looking lady. She had obviously had an unreplenished, busy day and was just now catching up, munching down a cheese and tomato panini as if it really was the last one on the planet. She scowled over the gunk of her meal and to my horror, muttered something really quite deliberate.
“What?!,” I thought. The Rastafarian opened his eyes and looked at her. We froze. “Did he?” we all wondered collectively. He just smiled, sat up a little, then closed his eyes again.
Finally, the conductor came and went through the usual drill of finding our tickets.
He was impatient, for there was a whole train to do -- and here was a passenger with takeaway wrappers, newspapers and all sorts of detritus spilled from her bag, but no sign of any ticket.
“I am sure it was in here!” she squealed helplessly, looking up through designer glasses that had misted in her panic.
“I’ll be back,” the conductor muttered coldly. “Otherwise, you must pay for a new one.”
"But it’s a season ticket!” she wailed. The conductor had already moved on.
We all looked away, none wanting to engage in the drama. The man who had fixed himself all too obviously to the window now looked as if he would pass out, such was the level of his pique. His wild eyes screamed volumes: “How was it possible that I could have chosen the one place of all the places on this carriage?” He blew out a hot, exasperated, mint-scented sigh.
Then there was me, who was frankly not doing all that well for the madam either, as I had managed to spill the remains of her meal onto my lap. There I was, madly dabbing away.
The quiet member of our little entourage shifted, and his side brushed ever so lightly against the little cricket fixed to the window. The man darted a terrified look across at me, and I fleetingly imagined he would hop right there onto my lap.
And now, as if it were not all quite enough already, madame started to mew little oh-no’s mournfully – as yet another dreadful truth dawned upon her.
Her purse. Gone!
She glared at the Rastafarian, who all the while had been watching deadpan as she unraveled before him. She glared at him accusingly. My heart skipped a beat. “No, surely!” But thankfully, before anyone could react, the conductor loomed above her -- and he was having none of it. “Sorry, rules are rules!” She had to get off the next stop.
“Must I? Must I?”
No one moved to help, except that was for the “odd one.” He reached into his pocket and drew out a fifty dollar bill. “Take it,” he told the conductor.
The ticketless woman turned magenta and spluttered. “No, absolutely not!”
The man ignored her and looked at the conductor. “I said to take it, man,” he said evenly.
So the conductor took the money, processed the transaction and handed the change back. He held out the ticket. She had no choice but to take it.
He rewarded her with a big smile – and there it was, the biggest gold front tooth I had ever seen.
Immediately, he got up and went to stand by the crowded doors.
One stop on, he was gone.
We watched him as the train slowly pulled away. He walked lightly and seemingly without a care in the world.
One might have assumed that was that, but no.
“You know why he wouldn’t give me his address don’t ya?”
No one was interested, but that did not stop her.
“Cause, look at him! No way he’s legit,” she snickered.
Six months went by, and there he was at an art exhibition, studying a beautiful woodlands triptych.
He caught me looking at him intently, so he turned and asked if we knew each other.
“You were the Samaritan on the New York to Connecticut train ride. I was sitting opposite you.” He frowned, trying to remember. “You know,” I insisted, “The woman and her lost ticket.”
His face lit up, smiling as he remembered. The gold tooth glinted.
“Aah… Yes! Yes!” he chuckled, shaking his head ever so slightly.
“I’m sorry that she was such an ungrateful idiot,” I blurted. But he frowned, not liking that. “No, man,” he said. “No. No. Not a good thing to say, man,” immediately shaming me. I apologised sheepishly.
He looked at me with dancing, knowing eyes, such that made me all too aware of my own missteps. But then he patted my arm kindly, and we got to speak about art instead. Turned out, it was actually his work on the wall.
When I said my goodbyes, he left me with a little message:
“You know,” he said, “sometimes the smallest birds need to make the loudest noise.”
That is Jeremiah: Grace and Generosity, perfectly wrapped.
Grace without generosity is no more than emptiness. But Graceful Generosity – that is pure gold, an unbeatable force that truly confirms the very soul and true purpose of a person and, by extension, our humanity.