Life has been incredibly good to me. Sure, there have been bumps in the road, but no craters. I wish I could say I lived a perfect life, but that would be a lie; I was never bad but I wasn’t always good. For example, there was my summer during college when I worked with college buddies who included an eventual star for the Boston Celtics at a restaurant on Cape Cod…well, maybe that summer recollection is better kept a memory. We all have these stories and experiences; some I laugh about and others I thank the Good Lord for the gift of grace that helped me persevere.
In those early years, I never fully appreciated the gift of grace. Today I am incredibly thankful for this truly amazing gift. Maybe I am not as grateful as I should be, but I think that is part of the human condition. We forget or fail to do as much as we should or want to do because our lives are so busy, but each day I give thanks.
There are many other ways I express my gratitude. The first is that I strive to treat everyone with respect and hospitality. As I age, I feel much less “up-tight” about saying hello to passing strangers, wishing a fellow rider on the elevator my hope for good health, or offering a helping hand to someone who appears to need it.
Then there was the time I was in New York City during the holidays, enjoying the beauty and excitement of Rockefeller Center. I saw many couples, families and groups taking pictures of each other, but the picture- taker was always left out (a time before selfie sticks). So I decided I would go around and offer to take peoples’ pictures with their cameras so everyone would have their Christmas memory at Rockefeller Center. I did that for over an hour and must have taken 40 pictures; in every case, the people were so happy and grateful. It was fun to see couples and families embrace, kiss and make funny faces. When I gave them their cameras back, I said, “This is a small gift to you; Merry Christmas.” I have done that many times since and in every single circumstance the reaction is the same, both for them and me: JOY.
I have also become more financially generous with age, but I want and will give more. Why? It is not out of guilt or obligation, but because I want to share the blessings in ways that make a difference. I want to help the church do more ministries. I want to help it become more like a “field hospital” than a courthouse. I want to help the Foundation I lead do more and better work in helping the church and it members in the years ahead long after I am gone. I want to help my college and graduate school because I want to help educationally motivated students realize their dreams and have the opportunities I had.
Recently, after revising our estate plans, the lawyer suggested we get our final affairs in order and write our obituaries. I thought it was strange, but I soon realized it would be my last statement. After some thought, I simply wrote one sentence: “Paul always tried to do good.”
You see, my faith is not rooted in contemplative prayer, but action and deeds. I am inspired by James’ words, “Faith without good works is dead.”
This is what grace is doing for me. I invite you to consider what God’s grace is doing for you.