Grace

August 12, 2011

I recently read What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey. It is an in-depth study on grace, what it means and how it is applied.

The term grace can be used in several ways, such as an elegant or beautiful motion. However, it is also defined by the Merriam Webster Law Dictionary as:

1: a special favor: “privilege;” Example: considered by many authorities to be a matter of grace and not of right
2a: a temporary exemption
2b: the prerogative of mercy exercised (as by a chief executive) or granted in the form of equitable relief

Yancey talks about the difficulty of issuing grace to an undeserving person or group of people (he also separates grace from punishment for actions). But, what I found most interesting in his argument for grace in difficult situations is the alternative to grace.

What is the opposite of grace? Disgrace. Mercilessness, Unforgiveness Retaliation. As we know from Newton’s Laws of Motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In some of Yancey’s examples, the victim becomes the attacker and issues the same treatment back to the tormentor.

This cycle has been played out in families, cultures, and countries for centuries. The cycle continues until one party simply says, “enough.”

A prime example of grace in action is the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) established by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu preached reconciliation as the nonviolent counter to apartheid long before the creation of the TRC. For Tutu, reconciliation was a theologically developed expression of ubuntu, the traditional African notion of social harmony.

How does this relate to coffee? Many coffee-growing countries around the world have had to find a way to recover from horrific atrocities. Rwanda and Uganda are great examples of countries that were devastated by cruel dictators and civil wars. However, at some point, leaving the past behind and moving forward is the only way to escape the mire of ungrace. This shouldn’t mean there is no punishment or accountability for crimes, but the act of putting to rest the past allows people to get on with life.

As a small business owner, I find I have to put the past away and move on as well, when people let me down or, more difficult to overcome, when I let myself down. We all feel like we have a right to get even when we are crossed but, at some point, we have to take ownership of our actions and attitudes regardless of how much we feel like we have the right to reciprocate.

Life is difficult at times, but receiving grace and more importantly, showing grace can make all the difference.

At A&E Coffee Roastery and Tea, we try to be welcoming and create an atmosphere of inclusion and fun. Everyone can join the party and forget about the world outside the door, even if only for a few minutes. We try to offer a sympathetic ear when customers are having a rough day. We try not to take it personally when a customer is rude. On the flip side, we hope that once in a while, when we make a mistake, our customers will show us a bit of grace.

So far, I can honestly say that grace abounds. It is hard to create this type of environment but we have been working to cultivate it at A&E Coffee Roastery and Tea since the beginning.

~Emeran

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