Kirsten told me today…

Kirsten told me today that I am more gracious now than I was in college (when we were roommates). When we get together, sometimes we like to analyze each other; it's fun, and very satisfying after more than twenty years of friendship. If I'm really more gracious now, it's not so surprising, I think, given that I was pretty self-absorbed in college. I originally said pretty selfish in the discussion with her, but she corrected it to self-absorbed, which is probably more accurate. Kirsten also said we were all self-absorbed back then, which I suppose is true, and is also appropriate to being barely twenty.

But I was really pleased when she said I was more gracious now, and I realized that while I haven't framed it that way before, that being gracious is actually hugely important to me now. It's something I work at, that I'm conscious of, trying to be courteous, kind and pleasant. To write thank you notes (when I remember). To compliment a delicious meal a friend has provided. To take the time to walk in a lovely garden, and appreciate the labor and care they've put into it. Someday, I'd like to practice graciousness enough that it becomes automatic, a part of my essential being. A way of life.

I also like the connotations of grace under pressure, whether it's the pressure of a difficult or dangerous situation, or merely the stress of hosting a birthday party for your child. Some definitions of graciousness include tact and delicacy, and a generosity of spirit. All qualities worth aspiring to, though I'm not sure delicacy is my strong point.

Graciousness is pretty high on my list of what makes us civilized, and it's a virtue that I'd very much like to foster in my children. It's funny -- if you'd asked me at twenty what was important in life, I'm sure gracious wouldn't have even made my top twenty list. I would likely have listed smart, or driven, or accomplished. But I think the older I get, the more important I find kindness. Kindness to others, kindness to ourselves. Being kind might end up trumping everything.

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