My last blog post was about driving to the mountains in the western part of the state. On Saturday, we're heading east for a week at the beach. That's one of the great things about this part of North Carolina - you're only a few hours away from some gorgeous scenery in either direction.
We're going to Oak Island, which is just south of Wilmington. It's my favorite beach. It's not overbuilt - there are only a couple of motels and condominium complexes, so it's mostly houses on the beach. It's not a big party beach and the people who go there tend to be families, so it's relatively quiet. It was in the news this past weekend because of two shark attacks within a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon - an event so rare that nobody from the area interviewed by the press could remember any attack - let alone two - ever happening before. We may have one of those vacations where we sit in the deck and just look at the ocean, however.
Oak Island is one of North Carolina's south-facing beaches. The eastern edge of the state has two points where the coast juts out into the ocean, then abruptly moves back inland, creating beaches that face south. Oak Island is west of the southern point, just north of South Carolina.
On a south-facing beach, you can look to the left and see the sunrise and look to the right for the sunset. I'm not usually an early riser, except when I'm at the beach. One of my favorite things to do is get up early, make coffee, go out and sit on the deck, and watch the sunrise. It's a great way to start the day.
For several years, we went there for the week of my birthday in September. One year, on my birthday, I got up and went out with my coffee to be greeted with a spectacular sight. Two of my favorite things to be found at the coast are pelicans and dolphins. That particular morning, I looked out at the water to see a raft of pelicans. I've never seen so many in one place. They were all floating on the water in a big group. I stopped counting at 50. Accompanying them were more dolphins than I've ever seen at one time - 10 or 15 of them. On my birthday! As I type this, I'm sitting here shaking my head at the memory. It was one of the most marvelous things I’ve ever seen.
I love the sound of the surf. That rhythm is so primal and so calming. Meditation is not something that comes easily to me, but the regularity of that sound helps me find the frame of mind I need for meditation. When I have trouble sleeping, that’s what I try to imagine.
That contemplative state is where I am able to recognize grace most clearly. It took me a long time to begin to understand the concept of grace and to see not only how grace affects my life, but how I, by letting grace work within me, can affect other people’s lives. As I have been forgiven, so I can forgive others. As I have been allowed to be the person I am, so I can allow others to be who they are. As I have been helped – and I have, as have we all - so I can help others.
Once you begin to see how the grace of God has touched your life – wherever that may have been for you – gratitude and generosity should follow in the spirit of paying it forward. When we talk about grace, gratitude, and generosity here at the Foundation, we are most often talking about financial support of the Moravian Church, because that’s what we are here for. There’s nothing wrong with that. Supporting your church is a good thing to do, and we live in a world that runs for the most part on money. It takes money to feed the hungry and house the homeless.
But what I’m talking about goes beyond financial support and speaks to the idea of gratitude turned outward. What if we take our gratitude and share it with others? What if we take “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and turn it around into “As you have not been judged, maybe you shouldn’t judge others”? What if we extend that grace that we’ve been given to others who need it? That’s the kind of generosity that can change the world. If it takes money to do it, so be it. If it takes just a random act of kindness to a stranger, so be that, too.
Where can you find opportunities for sharing grace in your life?
I’m going to share the grace of sunrise at the beach with you. This is a video I shot one morning in September, 2012. Take a minute and a half to listen to the beauty of the surf and see if it doesn’t improve your day.