“Who are the five people you admire most and why?”
I found myself pondering over this question, posed by my little grey kikki.K ‘Goals’ journal, and feeling a tad perplexed. It’s the sort of thing that no one asks. My life, like most people’s, is so full of little questions like ‘what shall I wear today?’ and ‘how much petrol is in the car?’ that the deliberate inquisition of my journal – which is so unassuming, so innocent-looking on the outside – rendered me quite taken-aback.
I could think of a bunch of people to admire – mostly relatives and friends – but I struggled to put a finger on what it was about each of them that really spoke to me. I scribbled down words like ‘gentleness’, ‘genuineness’, ‘warmth’, the movements of my pen becoming increasingly feverish as I realised that those words aren’t enough; there’s a bigger word somewhere, a bigger quality.
And then I found it – or, perhaps, it found me. Grace.
In my family’s ramshackle and ancient bookcase (I mean this as in 1980s, not 1890s – everything is relative, right?) is a ramshackle and ancient Oxford dictionary, held together by black duct tape and imperiously presiding over the less-dusty books in its gaze. This dictionary is the source of all wisdom in my house (many an argument has been settled by a definition amongst its pages), but I found its interpretation of grace to be lacking.
The first word it proffers to define grace is ‘attractiveness’. What? I protested. Attractiveness is often synonymous with grace – for instance, when considering our society’s great graceful icons, such as Grace Kelly (see what I did there?), Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland – but what about, say, Mother Teresa? She wasn’t exactly a looker.
The dictionary continues – “elegance of proportion or manner or movement”. I agree with this part somewhat. Those who I think of as graceful do portray a certain elegance, a lightness of being, a feather-like calming presence; but surely this is a side-effect of inner qualities, inner grace. Surely that’s not the substance of grace itself.
Well, the dictionary appears to be as baffled as I am, for it labours on with word after word and an abundance of commas. It touches on truth here and there; “courteous good will”, “a divine saving and strengthening influence”, and so on. But it doesn’t really define grace. Perhaps such a thing can’t be done.
Words are funny things; that we should use a handful of them to lend meaning to another, and that they can hop from language to language and adopt little nuances which can’t quite be translated back. It’s kind of amazing that the whole structure of language doesn’t collapse in upon itself; that the links from each word to the next are robust enough to prop the whole delicate thing up.
At the end of the day, despite the effectiveness of words and the usefulness of dictionaries in settling household arguments, there are some shades of meaning that language can’t quite capture. What a beautiful thing, though, that we can hear a word like ‘grace’ and feel what it means, even if we can’t quite say it.
Who do I admire the most and why? I admire the people in my life who have faced challenges, both big and small (after all, we all have our obstacles), but who don’t walk around baring wounds. Who have sailed to dark places without fighting the tide, but carrying the wisdom to adjust the sails and keep moving. People who know which fights are worth taking up and who will be made stronger, not weaker, by their fears. Who are radiant yet humble, full of character yet allow space for other peoples’ character to settle in, to feel welcomed. People who treasure themselves and treasure each other. People who write their own truths and defend them with passion. People who make you feel safe. People who see beauty in everything and everyone. People who smile.
I admire graceful people, and I admire the grace inside every person.
Who do you admire and why? Who is the most graceful person you know?
Alyssa Robinson has written 12 posts.
If you dissected me you'd get a lot of opinions, a lot of inconsequential stresses ("but where did the bobby pin go?"), a lot of half-baked entrepreneurial ideas that get smothered by more pressing needs like blog posts and frivolously humorous tweets, and a lot of Diet Coke (it fills the void). Oh, and I guess you'd get guts.
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