I’ve been thinking a lot about grace recently. Grace as a concept of forgiveness, redemption, of righting past wrongs and moving forward
At the same time, I have been working to better understand ideas about beauty in relation to this idea of grace. As a creative person and spiritual thinker, I see beauty and grace as an expression of Soul, of qualities such as gentleness, purity, perfection and forgiveness. I like how these qualities, when expressed, give us a higher vision of beauty of ourselves and, especially, help us to see each other in our true light.
I’ve thought often of this as I’ve wrestled with the challenges, failures and mistakes that I’ve made along my journey.
The Christian concept of grace is of ‘the free and unmerited favour of God…the bestowal of blessings; the condition or fact of being favoured by someone’. I love that! It seems to say that all goodness is ours to be had, that no matter what mistakes or errors of judgment we have made, the goodness continues to flow and is ours to receive.
I was particularly inspired by an excerpt from an oral history of Hua Dan that has been
put together this past year. We’ve been fortunate to have the support of the amazing Linda Yi, a student from Duke University, who has interviewed many past and current beneficiaries, staff members and supporters. Linda has compiled her findings into a beautiful oral history project which will shortly be available online, as a testament to the contribution we have tried to make to China’s growth and development – and lessons for improvement into the future!
“There’s something about that situation where people are coming together and admitting their flaws, admitting their weakness, admitting that they all, as a group, can’t handle this thing that they’re addicted to [Hua Dan and using art for social change]: there’s something about the spirit of that group that produces what he calls grace. A has told me (about a sermon that she heard when she was in Central America) that grace is always present, it’s always right here, but we don’t always pick up on it, we don’t always accept this gift that’s freely offered by the world. But if we gather together in a certain spirit, then it appears. It seems to me that’s what’s happening at these Hua Dan meetings. The ostensible purpose is to build certain soft skills, or to do something about art and theater, but that isn’t really what’s important, and that isn’t really what’s happening. The important part (the solid heart) is the relationship building. And if that happens (and it almost has to happen), then the thing is a success, whether there’s any art or theater, whether people build skills or not.” (Correspondence between Linda Yi and David Guy, Hua Dan Oral History 2013)
I am humbled and inspired that an outside observer to our little band of Hua Daners, who have experienced huge challenges in moving our work forward in China, has recognized that the experience of grace is, fundamentally, what our work is really about.
This focus on relationships as an expression of grace was also brought home to me with a small incident that occurred on Sunday afternoon. On returning home on the metro, I stopped by the ATM to withdraw 20 euros before proceeding to the market to buy some cherries and bananas. Just as I was about to pay, I realised I had absent-mindedly just taken the ticket from the ATM and not the money. I dropped everything to run back to find that the money wasn’t there. On returning to the market stall to explain that I wouldn’t be buying the fruit after having lost the money, the market stall owner handed me my fruit. I was so overcome, I burst into tears – and couldn’t stop crying, so humbled I was at his expression of generosity. He then handed me a bottle of water and gently told me to keep my chin up, whereupon I said, I’ll just go and get more money out to pay you. He stopped me, told me not to worry about it – ‘another time, another time’. He handed me the fruit – with some apricots and peaches thrown in too.
I was blown away and in awe of this expression of grace, a reminder that whatever we think we’ve lost, the universe has it’s way of coming back to us with blessings in abundance – with extra thrown in for good measure too!