Freedom for Grace
by stephanie toews
“Ah, kindness. What a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in the world.” – Alison Malee
I know an older woman who is such a gem; every time I see her, she's smiling. She lives alone, is estranged from her family, and doesn't have a lot of money, yet she always smiles. It wasn’t apparent what she could possibly have to smile about all of the time. So one day, I asked her about it, and her response was both simple and profound, “Growing up, my mother told us kids to greet everyone we meet with a smile and it has stuck with me to this day.” This humble and priceless gesture makes her stand out as a woman I want to know and aspire to be.
Kindness is contagious. When someone expresses it to us, it's impossible not to be impacted by it. Kindness can come in many forms, from a smile, act of service, gift, or word of encouragement at just the right time. Though it may require effort and intentionality, kindness rarely costs us much, if anything. Its impact is rich, and there's not a soul alive who couldn’t benefit from more grace and love in action.
Everyone is struggling. Despite the highlight reels of people’s online lives, no one is exempt from hardships, heartbreak, and grief. Your struggle might look different from mine, but the things we wrestle with, pray about, and lose sleep over are no less challenging or real. I’ve had so many conversations and interactions with people just desperate for grace; to be heard, validated, cared for, and loved.
In a world of social media, bad news, and so many things set out to divide us, it’s easy to fall into the criticism trap when others don't believe, act, or live as we do. This is why I decided to delete one of my social media accounts at the start of this year. I didn’t like what happened to my heart and attitude when filter-less opinions were shared with the world, just asking for an argument in my opinion. For me, social media wasn’t a place for grace, relationship-building, and authentic conversation or change. Instead, it became an anxiety-inducing space for views to be yelled, and friends, families, and strangers to be divided. So I left.
This month, as we celebrate freedom, let’s remember the freedom that we have to love without limit, give grace, share a smile, control our reactions, responses, and daily choices, and be the very best versions of ourselves we can be. This world needs the unique gifts, kindness, and love that each of us has to offer.
Originally printed in the July 2021 issue of Simply Local Magazine
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