Ladders and Grace, Part 2

In Part 1, I pictured extending grace as similar to the action of a hinged extension ladder.

The ladder could flex and stretch/contract along the hinges as necessary for the job requirements. The “Job requirements” I believe are another key component to grace.

Stretching and flexing are wonderful qualities. However, they are only wonderful when they are used in the service of a larger goal. The ladder’s hinges are angled in the service of a task, that of reaching a different height, or creating a platform to serve a larger goal. A dancer practices her stretches and body positions in order to create a beautiful picture in a larger performance.

Have you ever been to a performance of The Nutcracker? Or a modern dance performance? The audience notices the individual dancer, but the quality of the larger performance as a whole is what is impactful and remembered. The contribution of each individual dancer is in service of a much bigger task. Was the story told well? Were the movements of the dancers consistent with the beat and feel of the music? Were they so in sync, in fact, that there was no discordant feel between the music and the movement of the dancers on stage. Was the sum larger than the individual parts?

When it’s all said and done, we don’t end up praising the ladder. It is a tool. We put it away when we’re finished with the task. We admire the finished product. Similarly, a person’s acts of grace, or extension out of their comfort zone, should always be in service of a larger goal. We can usually tell when someone is doing a gracious act in order to be noticed for the act itself, versus when they humbly go about doing/stretching/flexing in order to be a piece of a larger picture that is the truly important thing.

Of course, as human beings we have feelings and needs, unlike ladders. If someone does notice the effort we’ve put into the accomplishment of a greater task, it is like oil on the hinge. It keeps that particular flexibility well-lubricated and easy to use. It makes the service joyful.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Is grace an end in itself, or always in service of something else? And how do you personally help “oil the hinges” of other’s gracefulness?

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