I’ve always loved the word grace. It simultaneously conjures up elements of fluidity and stability. A way of moving and a form of prayer. A symbol of respect and a gesture of generosity. To move with grace signifies finesse and to interact with grace represents an act of kindness. When we live with character and gratitude, we live in a state of grace.
Growing up as a basketball player, I always believed “smooth” was the highest form of praise. Perhaps this was because “smooth” somehow represented grace in action.
During the last chapter of my latest book, Be Audacious, I write about the trials and tribulations I faced during a storm-weathering saga—hence the chapter’s title, “Weathering The Storm.” When one of my favorite players from the high school varsity team I was coaching asked me how I managed to show up to practice each and every day with a smile on my face, ready to coach them up from a wheelchair and later, on crutches, the response was instinctive, but it felt right.
“My man, it’s been a challenging time, and the pain sucks. It’s easy to get low when things are tough, but I wake up every morning and challenge myself to meet each day with love, character, courage and grace. I may fail with the courage and grace more often than I’d like, but we can always greet a new day with love and character.”
This was two years ago. Though I wasn’t on the sidelines for this remarkable young man’s senior year, I took time one recent afternoon to write three of my seniors—including him—a hand written note. The text I received from the young man who asked me the question was simple, but powerful, “You taught me to always persevere and make a negative situation into a positive one. For that I’m very grateful.”
I love this. This young man recognizes that we have a choice. Much of life is out of our control, but here’s a realm that is well within our circle of influence. I’m a big believer in our need to be gritty, scrappy, and tenacious in order to build resiliency. And ultimately, resiliency is the difference between weathering the storms of life or withering away. But resiliency and mindset, while working together, are two different elements. How do we learn to turn a negative into a positive? This is an art that if mastered holds transformative powers. I’m becoming convinced that a movement to foster grace is the answer. And how do we foster grace? By living with love, character and courage.
Grace is an intangible we hold in high esteem. Those who’ve mastered the art have achieved something meaningful, and in doing so, they inspire others to strive toward this higher realm.
The beautiful thing about grace is that there are so many forms. Through her ballet, dancer Misty Copeland has broken down barriers in her industry, shattering norms with both her courage and grace. When courage and grace combine, there is perhaps no more potent recipe.
Grace is an act of love and of courage.
I’m by nature an optimist, a dreamer, a creative who believes that we can change, grow, transform and evolve, collectively and individually. I do what I do in hopes I’m contributing to the cause. We don’t do nice things for people because we expect something in return; we do it because it’s the right thing to do. We can begin to foster grace by making eye contact, saying hello, waving at a driver who created space for us to make a left turn. These little acts hold potential for vast ripples.
I may never achieve Misty Copeland grace, but it is my hope that by striving to be graceful in my interactions with strangers, cohorts and family, by living with love and courage, the little moments of grace will add up. And may even stick.
With nothin’ but love, Michael W. Leach