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My wife Kathy and I have discovered the grace of bed and breakfasts instead of hotels with our last three vacations. Last year we enjoyed three different ones in upstate New York, and this year one in San Diego and two in Michigan near Lake Michigan. The easy grace of bed and breakfast living has taught us about the blessings of life available to us in any age.
We have learned the value of taking the time to find comfort in the simple things, not letting ourselves become inured to what is around us every day. When we arrive at the various bed and breakfasts, we can smell hot brownies or cookies. We delight in basic human transactions at breakfast. Kindness, courtesy and elegance are all gracious values that we have experienced in all of these settings. This way of living isn’t beyond our reach every day. By rearranging our priorities we can enjoy all the virtues of bed and breakfast living in our own home.
We are living in a new world, one that challenges our peace of mind and our inner grace. With its frenetic pace and constant state of flux, modern life often feels chaotic and unstable and leaves us unsure of the ground we walk on. Technology, while providing us many advantages, encourages us to race through our days so that we no longer know what we’d do if we were to slow down. Labor-saving devices seem not only to have failed to enhance the quality of our lives and free up more time, but get between us and the immediate, sensory pleasures of life and increase the pressures on us to do more.
Many of us feel cut off from life’s blessings, from our neighbors, from the wonders of nature and from a sense of our own significance in the scheme of things. Modern life leaves us feeling spiritually starved.
In our rush for newer, quicker, better, we seem to be missing out on what we fundamentally crave: a calmer, gentler, sweeter and more grace-filled life. Is it easy to achieve such a life? Definitely not. Is it possible? Absolutely, positively, certainly, yes.
When my wife and I spend more time at bed and breakfasts, we discover a new path, a slower path that can be followed anytime, anywhere, by anybody. This road is a very old road. Gandhi spoke of it when he urged, “We need to learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.” Awareness, attentiveness and appreciation are the energies that light our path toward grace-filled living.
We’re on a pilgrimage together in this ever-changing world. But the pilgrimage always takes us back to the same place, back to ourselves and the basic, essential pleasures that constitute a rich and fully lived life in any age. We can put first things first and determine for ourselves what we need and what we can live without. By changing the direction of our gaze toward our inner needs we can begin to see what really holds us together.
Whom do you know who is grace-filled? What are their passions? Have they simply been blessed with good fortune or did they have to learn to strive for what’s important? When you take a closer look at a person who lives graciously, whether they are nine or ninety-nine, you see an energetic, spirited, loving person who has a zest for living and enjoys the miraculous gift of life. We are surrounded by opportunities for living with grace – our own hands and our own hearts are all the tools we’ll ever need.
We have so much to learn. We have rushed past the fundamental joys of living, but we can find our way back. Life is so wondrously rich with possibility. The more we welcome and value each day, the more we can do to restore grace and meaning in our lives. Look for the spirit of grace as it unfolds everywhere before you. To find grace-filled opportunities, all you need is to be open and enthusiastic.
We have so much to share. Our grace adds rays of brightness in times of adversity as well as in times of relative peace. Grace begins within each of us and flows out to our families, to our neighbors and to the whole universe. Together let’s celebrate the gift of grace and live grace-filled lives.
Bob Mueller is senior director of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. The views in this column are those of the writer.