Tim Cusack: Blog Entry

GRACE TRUMPS DIRT

plant out of dirt

I know how it feels when someone says something rude, offensive or derogatory. For a few seconds you’re stunned. In those moments of being shocked by belligerent words lays an opportunity to take a breath and recall a definition of grace – “Treating people better than they deserve to be treated.”

The most common emotional reactions to verbal attacks are: anger, hate, disgust, bitterness, etc. However, with a little grace, you don’t need to go there.

We had just moved in to our new home. I was digging in the front lawn when our next door neighbor came by, looked down at my project and said, “Look at that damn dirt.” I said, “Excuse me?” She responded, “Look at that damn dirt; that dirt is no good!” In a state of awe I said, “You don’t like my dirt?” “Well, it’s no damn good,” she replied.

In my head, my inner voice was fighting over the response I would choose to answer this attack on my new expensive purchase of dirt. It was in that moment of internal conflict that it occurred to me if this woman doesn’t like my dirt, how many other things does she dislike or hate. And, if someone has lots of hate, then they probably hold lots of pain. So, I chose ‘grace.’ I said, “Well, it’s the only dirt I have. I’m stuck with it.”

As time passed, we slowly became friends with our neighbor. She was living alone. She lost her first husband and love of her life in World War II, was divorced from her second husband, and had a son in Florida. The strongest tragedy was the emotional trauma of her daughter no longer being a part of her life due to a long-ago unresolved disagreement (What would their relationship be today had grace been involved?).

Now, 17 years later, we still talk with her (she lives in Florida near her son). This winter, as she turned 93, she called and told us that we had helped her at a very difficult time in her life. It all began with ‘my damn dirt’ and ended with grace.

A personal attack is typically connected to some type of anger, pain or sorrow. A healthy response to these emotions may be some kind of grace.

You don’t know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” Poet, Miller Williams

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