The inspiration for this message began recently when I was teaching yoga at Mayo Clinic for cancer patients and survivors.
It is a bitter-sweet process for me as I am just barely into year two of remission myself. Though my passion for helping others in their process of healing runs deep, so does the stain of thought that leaves a part of my being on hold, with fear of “it” ever coming back.
Being around others who are also toying with end of life transitions is an all too familiar and sensitive reminder of impermanence. And yet, it is a powerful redirection to the preciousness of each breath and the potential within each human connection, regardless of circumstances or differences.
The waiting rooms, halls and clinics were full of every color, shape, gender and age of person. It is clear that in the face of death there is no discrimination. And yet in the social disorder of religious war, racism and sexism, it seems disturbingly acceptable to discriminate in life.
The activist and hyper-aware being in me—too often for my own good—saturates me in the horrifying headlines that depict our anthropological hypocrisy. We claim advanced evolution because we have impressive technology and massive industrialization, yet we continue to fight, conquer, and divide our shared humanity.
The headlines signify one disgraceful episode of inhumane devolution after another. We continue to perpetuate disconnection because of assumption, judgment, distracting devices and archaic beliefs that keep us comfortable in our isolation from others.
Culture is founded on the meaningful connection among people, not the dominance or segregation between people. Our evolution as a global, cross-cultural people is fragmented and ill—too many are sick with the illusion that some lives mean more than others. Disconnection from our humanistic roots is perhaps the worst disease of them all.
All lives matter—anyone in the cancer clinic can tell you that. And I’ve seen racism melt in the face of death.
In the end, as we clutch the gift of life in all its magnificence, we want to belong to all of it, to everyone. Why can’t we belong to one another while we are living?
Walking through those sterile halls and tender to my discomfort of life’s uncertainty, I needed something to sooth me. I was inspired to do something different, to ask for something bigger, to raise the heaviness of the world carried in my heart—and likely yours.
I realized that the people in that clinic needed something amazing.
The people of the world needed something amazing.
What we need is grace—some f****ng Amazing Grace.
By some random fluke of divine inspiration and mild insanity, I began humming a verse of the song, “Amazing Grace.” And its deep undertones rose like a sweet scent into the walls and pillars and the spines of strangers. I softly delivered my modest and tone-deaf, alto rendition of the hymn and, more potent than I imagined, it grabbed hold of a seemingly displaced sea of people and brushed color and smiles back onto somber faces.
Our eyes met. Their eyes met. Connection.
People softly joined in, riding a contagious wave of relief. Sure, I got a cantankerous scowl from a few—hell, that might have been me a year ago. Just because I can’t reach everybody doesn’t mean I can’t try to reach somebody.
In the elevator, a diverse population of strangers joined together with me in the song.
It didn’t matter if we were white or black. It didn’t matter if we were Muslim or Atheist, gay or straight. It didn’t matter because in that moment we were all dying together and we were all living together. Collectively participating in perhaps the two most commonly shared and indiscriminatory human experiences: life and death.
The bridge between the two was our ability to find grace and that was amazing.
We must be willing to accept the power in our simple gestures of grace weaved throughout our days—consciously and mindfully restoring the fabric of humanity one thread at a time. One genuine connection to another.
Here are 11 suggestions for other ways to weave “Amazing Grace” into your life:
1. Make eye contact and give a genuine smile.
2. Engage in a conversation with a stranger, maybe standing in line at the market.
3. Offer to help someone.
4. Be funny and spontaneous in random places. Be willing break the ice.
5. Create roots in your community or volunteer in a community of need.
6. Leave random inspirational notes or quotes.
7. Look at people with tenderness as if you were looking at yourself.
8. Put the phone or tablet down when out in the world. Be present to who is real and in front of you.
9. Be willing to be vulnerable. Warm another’s heart by offering a piece of yours.
10. Allow judgments and assumptions to be opportunities to learn.
11. Sing some ‘Amazing Grace’! Yup, try it and see what happens. If people ask, say you are restoring humanity.
Author: Robin Afinowich
Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Mark Turnauckas/Flickr