By Patrick Braunscheidel
I should have known by the initials on the door that the waiting room would be filled with faces of those looking like they were about to undergo a root canal. Except that while the initials began with D, it was followed by MV, rather than DS.
It was a beautiful summer day in the Southtowns and it didn’t matter whether the patrons were waiting for a dentist or to register their new cars – it was truly sad that we were all inside. As the minutes ticked by, murmurs of whispered conversations passed along with muted expressions of boredom. Then the announcement came, “Our computers are down and we don’t know when they will be back up.”
Immediately the clerks sprang from behind the counters to work with those waiting to process what they could without their silicon helpers.
Yet what was not heard was any complaining or grumbling from anyone. Not one person even raised a voice in protest. It was a moment of beautiful grace in the midst of modern life’s most frustrating occurrences: delay due to computer issues.
Suddenly my “waste of time” became one of enchantment. I realize you may think enchantment is an oversell for the incident, but moments of grace are magical and humans have the ability to make the mundane charming.
I will even go further to suggest that some of our society’s most serious problems could be more easily managed if we treated each other more gracefully. Yet our virtual lives have made a literal mess of how we view each other.
Grace does not belong to us and it can only be received when we give it to others. Especially at times when we are frustrated or when we think we should be confrontational, the beauty of grace can flip negative feelings on their heads.
But we first have to recognize the inherent value we each have as human beings.
Last year I was given “Big Russ and Me,” written by Buffalo’s favorite son, the late Tim Russert. In the book Tim told how his dad would wrap broken glass in paper so the sanitation workers wouldn’t cut their hands. Immediately my thoughts raced by to my own dad, who did the exact same thing. As a dimwitted boy I thought, “Why was he doing this? They will never cut their hands.”
Yet here were these two men who never met, looking out for people they didn’t even know. That is grace. Civilization depends on it, and without it society will collapse.
I started writing this before the events unfolded in Charlottesville. Yet what took place there was the antithesis of grace, and the result was a complete collapse of civility. I will not mince words: The blame for this gracelessness lies at the feet of the white supremacists.
Their goal has been and will always be to demean and demoralize any group at any time they feel doesn’t belong.
Grace tells us we all belong. Grace tells us that all men and women are created equal. Grace guarantees us “equal protection under the law.”
There is plenty of debate over what America is or should become, yet the dream of America will never be realized if we fail to recognize that all of us deserve the most basic of societal needs: to be treated with dignity regardless of our race, creed, gender, age, economic standing or orientation.
The solution is in our collective DNA. Its genetic name is grace, and it will never be totally ours until we give it to someone else.