When this country was not yet a country, an attorney named John Adams took an unfavorable position. He decided to defend the British soldiers who had opened fire on colonists and had killed five of them in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Adams was vilified in the press and among his peers. How could anyone defend these cretins? they chastised him. They don’t deserve your time, and you shouldn’t be dragged into the mess they made.
Adams countered that it should be a fundamental principle of our new country, designed by people of integrity, that we give everyone a fair hearing. Each side of the story should be told so that we can determine the truth. With the truth in hand, we can decide how best to proceed. Otherwise, we are no better than the apes – emotional, erratic, and even violent.
Adams’ courageous act was also an act of grace. He saw the soldiers as humans, not objects, and he could not look away. They were husbands and fathers and sons. They, too, despite all they represented, deserved to be heard as people.
Grace is doing the honorable thing, regardless of the throngs of trolls amassing to hurl stones at your attempts to find the truth and to right a wrong. Grace is my sorority sister, legal aid attorney Palma Pustilnik, choosing to represent the young woman at UVA who was profiled in the Rolling Stone article about a gang rape. Grace is university president, Theresa Sullivan, standing firm in her determination to eradicate a culture of rape and objectification that has existed for far too long. Grace is facing the dragons and feeling their fiery breath singe your spirit.
Grace is any time we put aside our own assumptions and prejudice and take the higher road. Grace is each time we listen instead of speaking over others. Grace is giving our time when we believe we have none of it to give.
Grace is confrontation coming from a place of love and compassion. Grace is kindness with no expectation of reward. Grace is saying what needs to be said and standing in our power to say it.
Grace is laying down our burdens and humbly asking someone for help. Grace is picking ourselves up after the storm has passed and finding that we are still whole and good, scarred and irrevocably changed, but still standing, still us.
Grace is courage. Choosing grace is our most heroic act, our chance to forget about ourselves and serve a greater purpose. That was once the measure of an American, and has always been what makes us undeniably – and divinely – human.