By Mohan Karulkar: I was at the gym last week, and using the upstairs track that's mostly off-limits to people under 18.  It's a quiet place, away from the weight cage and cardio machines.  This day, however, there were about 11 teenagers, probably between 12-15, causing a ruckus.  They were goofing around on the track, kicking medicine balls around, being inconsiderate, and causing general mayhem.  Eventually they all got thrown out, and the 10 or so other patrons up there raised a silent cheer.

I did too, but I felt a little guilty.  Honestly, that could have been me 2o years ago.  I don't know anything about those kids -- where they come from, who they're learning things from.  Maybe stuff like that is normal at the high school track.  Maybe they'd never even been to track (I'd never seen them up there before).  Or maybe respect just isn't a part of their lives at home.

I got to thinking: there are a lot of lousy ways to learn about life out there.  There are the obvious ones, like stressed out parents, road raging drivers, badly behaved celebrities, and trashy reality TV.  But then there are more subtle influences, like the isolation from peers and adults that the digital age has brought.  Or  the extreme cultural tensions experienced by 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants.

In other words, it's never as simple as it seems. People are influenced by a million different things -- some we don't even understand yet.

All that points to the need for us to step up.  We talk about how grace is scare, and how the way to fix that is to BE the change -- so let's start being it.  Many of us draw our notions of grace, forgiveness, and second chances from God, family, friends, and role models.  But are we passing those notions on to anyone else?  We need to make sure that we don't turn grace into some abstract thing we celebrate -- like a birthday.  We need to be teaching grace to others, and modelling it consistently in everything we do.  We need  to be practicing concrete acts of grace, and bringing others along with us.

Let's try this:

  1. Think of one young person in your life that you influence.
  2. Think of 1 way you can model grace in front of them.
  3. Do that thing.  Be a teacher in the art of grace.

And next time you get annoyed at how someone else is acting, have a little grace towards them, but also ask yourself if you could be a better model of the way you'd like to see them acting.