Graciousness

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I want to talk about graciousness. The above quote from Charles Dickens is an illustration to me of graciousness. To be gracious is a characteristic I admire and appreciate in others but one that is so undervalued by the current ‘me’ generation.

It’s also a word that is not well understood. So what does it mean:

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I love the way graciousness is linked to other virtues I also value: kindness, patience, mercy. To be gracious is to be kind and courteous, accepting, showing sympathy, having a generosity of spirit and a helpful nature; the ability to put another’s desire before your own. It is opposed to pride and the need for recognition. A gracious person can hold their tongue, not express their opinion, and doesn’t need to justify their words or actions.

 

 

It’s not a characteristic which I believe I’ve mastered but it is certainly a characteristic I admire, appreciate and am aiming for. I leave you with the following which are are further examples of my take on graciousness:

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the unknown

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It’s yet another reason to be compassionate – we don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life – and sometimes we are quick to judge without knowing the full story (and we may never know the full story)… so let’s take a moment to be compassionate to that annoyingly bitter co-worker; to the angry man I just passed on the stairs or the smelly girl who’s begging in the street; to the odd lady across the road or that chap at the supermarket who never makes eye contact let alone conversation…

Everyone has a story – and it’s their story to share or not share. And if I knew their story, I might show more kindness, be more understanding, allow myself to feel compassion.

So maybe it’s time to give others the benefit of the doubt, time to choose compassion – because everyone has their secrets; everyone has a story -the depths of which, the hurts and pains, the secret sorrows, we’ll probably never know.

 

Something new

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I can start something new today; attempt something new. And I might fail – but I might not. I won’t know if I don’t try. Whether it’s learning a new style of painting, a new language, a new recipe or trying a new attitude, a different outlook or focus, to be that person, today could be the beginning of something new – if I just take a step, if I simply try…

And in a year’s time I might look back at today and want to celebrate THIS day – because I chose to do something new; because I chose to do or to be; because I chose to make a start…

Pain

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My husband is having a ‘bad’ day. He suffers from an auto-immune disease and takes a variety of medication. On bad days, he takes even more. On good days his symptoms are manageable and a mere annoyance. Today he feels weak, fatigued, hasn’t slept well and is in continuous pain. Thankfully it’s a Saturday and he has fewer commitments and can fall asleep in front of the television and sleep off and on all day if he chooses.

Life isn’t always like this. Life hasn’t always been like this. We’ve been married for almost four years. We’d been married for a little over a year when he first got sick. His symptoms seemed to increase every few days and ended up incorporating his feet, ankles, knees, back, neck, head, shoulders, wrists and hands. He was in a huge amount of pain, had no energy and over a matter of days, he seemed to lose all his strength. It got to the point where he couldn’t dress or feed himself, couldn’t get to the bathroom and couldn’t even get himself out of bed – he didn’t have enough strength in his hands or arms to propel himself up off the bed to be able to sit instead of lying down, let alone actually get out of bed.

It was a horrible period, and took a some time to get an accurate diagnosis. As soon as he began a course of steroids, he started improving rapidly and the change was immense. After a week or so, any time the doctor reduced the steroids, the pain and weakness would return with avengence. As you can imagine, it was horrendous watching the man I love go through such a debilitating illness and to see him in so much pain.

Early one morning on my way to work I stopped to get petrol and as I waited for the petrol tank to fill, I started crying and couldn’t stop. I rang my boss who could tell I was obviously in significant distress. Then I drove to my husband’s doctor and spoke to the receptionists there. With tears streaming down my face I told them I called an ambulance during the night because my husband was in so much pain. Because it wasn’t life threatening or a significant enough emergency, the ambulance service wouldn’t come. “I’ve come here because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to stop his pain.”  The receptionists were both nurses, and they were very kind. They booked me in to see my husband’s doctor and I would be his first appointment. They brought me a cup of tea and gave me tissues and a newspaper to read while I waited the forty-five minutes for the doctor to arrive. The doctor was lovely, he saw me as soon as he arrived. He was surprised my husband had gone downhill so quickly as he had seen him only a few days earlier. He rang the specialist my husband was due to see in a few weeks, explained the situation and was able to arrange an earlier referral and to alter my husband’s medication. I took the prescription directly to our local pharmacist, and within a matter of maybe an hour, my husband’s pain had decreased and he was resting more comfortably.

In the weeks and months that followed, he saw the specialist and while it took time, his health improved and he was able to return to work. That was two and a half years ago and since then there have been ups and downs, good days and bad. In general there are many more good days than there are bad days – and for that we are grateful. We are also both aware that many other people experience greater ongoing pain than we have known, and that life could be a whole lot worse than it is.

My husband’s illness highlighted to me something I hadn’t known and hadn’t needed to learn until that point: that I was prepared to fight for the man that I loved when he wasn’t able to fight for himself. And as his wife, that seemed to be my role at the time, to intercede on his behalf. Because if I hadn’t, who would have?

I have a degree of understanding of how wives and mothers can morph into warriors and/or avenging angels to protect their loved ones when the need arises. What was amazing to me was the strength and determination that I possessed, that until that time, I hadn’t known was there.

That I had strength and determination: this is what I learnt from my husband’s pain.

 

The Pohutukawa

In the lead up to Christmas I want to introduce you to the Pohutukawa – the New Zealand Christmas tree. Pohutukawa is a Maori word which means “drenched in mist”. As one of the best known and most visible native trees, pohutukawa are found growing around the coastline of the upper North Island of New Zealand. They are comfortable in rugged windswept beaches, in sand and seaspray, and have a remarkable ability to cling to steep cliffs and hillsides, often seen growing in seemingly impossible locations.

The first Europeans to New Zealand named the pohutukawa ‘the New Zealand Christmas tree’ due to their brilliant bright red flowers that bloom from November to January. For generations of kiwis, the flowering pohutukawa has become one of the great icons of summer and the Christmas holiday season. The tree often features in art and literature, in poetry and songs, on photos and greeting cards and has become an important symbol for New Zealanders both at home and overseas.

Bright and colourful, the pohutukawa is cheerful and instantly recognised (by kiwis at least!)  It is also a wonderful example rugged determination – the ability to grow in harsh situations where others would struggle. But not only does it survive in places of adversity, it thrives!

A picture of both beauty and determination in one (Christmas) package.

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