A Call for Grace, Patience, and Good Humor

Grace is a state of thoughtfulness toward others. Patience involves calmly tolerating delay, confusion, or inefficiency; enduring pain or trouble without losing self-control; and refusing to be provoked or angered by an insult or perceived slight. Good humor is the ability to see, appreciate, or express what is funny, amusing, ludicrous or ironic in a situation.

I realize these terms are quaint—old-fashioned, curious, maybe even fanciful in our current society. But if there has ever been a time to learn and practice these characteristics, it is now.

Taken together, grace, patience and good humor create a model of leadership that sets direction and priorities, provides time for learning, encourages participation, endures inevitable set-backs and failures, and perseveres toward goals that matter.

Yes, they are ideals. But they can also be realistic if we teach and model them. Sadly, there are more examples of driving ambition and ruthless disregard for people or things that do not further immediate success or personal gratification. Sadder still, such images garner high ratings in the media.

I was thinking of this over the 4th of July weekend and in days since. My parents are here for a rare week-long visit. As you might expect, there have been many gatherings of family and friends and, since Mom and Dad are staying at my house, I have been involved in many of them.

Planning began weeks before they arrived. Their schedule of activities carries daily demands of time and attention. I fretted about my work. How could I take so much time off? How could I be with them and still fulfill professional obligations? How would I be ready to travel for business immediately after they left? How was I going to get everything done? Forget about grace!

I’ll admit to feelings of mild resentment for siblings who were not investing the kind of time or attention that I was. But I have gained enormous perspective over the days my parents have been here. What a gift.

The most poignant moment and stark reminder came from my Dad, who is struggling with Alzheimer’s. The disease has progressed to the point where he does not remember sitting outside and marveling at fireflies for an hour on Sunday night. When we walked my dog the next day, I said I wondered if we would see fireflies again that evening.

Dad’s reply: “Fireflies? What are those?”

I explained what they are in the same way I had done a dozen times on Sunday evening. He was charmed once again by my description and was excited about the prospect of seeing them. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen those.”

I simply smiled and said maybe we’d be lucky.

It was a moment of sudden clarity in which I understood the extent of my mother’s challenge and my father’s mortality. It was a quiet moment that spoke volumes about what matters most.

My Dad may not have the memory of a magical summer evening, but I do. It’s one I’ll cherish long after he is gone.

Categories: General Advice

About Susan Marshall

founder susan marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.