She seemed glad to see me, yet at the same time I detected something angry in her demeanor. Immediately, I wondered what I had done wrong to be called in to "the principal's office". Guiltily and nervously, I sat down.
For a moment I couldn't quite understand what she was talking about. She mentioned a male coworker and talked of her annoyance that typically men earn more than women for doing the same job. She said she had met with other administrators and she had won her battle. I assumed she was referring to herself not earning a commensurate salary, but why would she be sharing that with me?
Finally, after a few seconds of denial on my part, I got it. I could hardly deny the amount of money she wrote on a slip of paper - $5,000. That was to be my immediate raise. This occurred many years ago when $5,000 amounted to more than it does now, though I still don't think anyone would refuse it.
I thanked the Universe for such a gift. Grace had beamed down on me and without even entering the game, I had won a heavenly lottery.
(I use the word "grace" for lack of a better one and because that fits my frame of reference; but substitute your own word for the gifts of life: God, faith, mystery, nature, natural law, the void. Even the word luck can be used. Maybe it's the best word.)
I'm not sure what made me think of that today. I think it was my enjoyment of the aroma of strong coffee brewing that made me think of grace; how it is probably always present but I don't see it until I perceive something big has happened. How silly is that? Something more than big happens every day. I am alive.
My perception is tilted and I look for what I think is valid, valuable, useful, worthy. I yearn for what I don't have and I thereby miss seeing the gifts that surround me. They are all big gifts, but I delude myself into thinking they vary in size or value.
The mountains, the dogs, the flowers, the bugs, the birds, the houses, the furniture, the bills, the people, the relationships, the circumstances, even the tragedies - they are all full of potential, full of life, full of a perfection which my tilted perception skews, judges, sometimes resists and rejects.
Grace is everywhere. But I guess to be grateful for it we first have to acknowledge it, see it, touch it, perceive it from our human vantage point. I used to say I wanted to age gracefully. Now, that statement makes no sense to me. I want to be grace-full, or rather to discover and activate the grace within me, for we are all full of grace.
What I am finding is that grace is an ordinary thing, a radical something which is present each moment, every day. So, as I smelled that coffee brewing I promised myself to be on the lookout for grace today. I just realized that I actually did get up and smell the coffee, like the saying goes. I'll proceed then, to be as awake as I can for all the grace that bombards my world - inner and outer. And if I can recognize grace, I will intimately know gratitude. They are inseparable.
I remember now that I sat under the stars last night. They existed when I got those $5,000 which have long since been spent. But those millions of stars shed grace upon me still.