If there is something Julie Perrin would like us to take away from her latest book it is that lessons in grace can happen in the most unexpected places and at the unlikeliest times.
This can even include a highly fraught taxi ride to the hospital to see a hurt loved one.
The Melbourne author’s new work, Tender: stories that lean into kindness, tells of a taxi driver who, more than 30 years ago, drove Julie to the hospital when her husband had been severely injured in a workplace accident.
“He (the taxi driver) was the one who showed me what it was to respectfully sit next to one who is in the midst of a crisis,” Julie says.
“The gentle and unobtrusive way he did that was later a wake-up call to me, he knew exactly how to behave in a way that helped me without being patronising or pushy.”
Julie, who is a member of the Brunswick Uniting Church, believes these sorts of moments are always waiting to be discovered – we just need to be paying attention.
“I feel like part of what we’re here for is to be awake and aware to what’s going on,” she says.
“Noticing these things that happen between neighbours, creatures, queuing at the bank – it feels like gifts waiting to be seen.”
Julie also believes we need to be aware of the opportunities to be kind to each other or they will slip by.
“People have that capacity, it is there, it’s just a matter of waking up to ‘oh maybe it’s my turn’ and making something happen,” she says.
“There are such a lot of terrible things happening to a lot of people and we don’t know if things will go even more pear-shaped, so the practice of kindness might be all we have left.”
Julie doesn’t pretend that responding with kindness is always simple or easy. One of the 60 short stories included in Tender tells of an argument Julie had with her husband.
At Christmas, Julie’s husband wanted to invite a guest to their family lunch because the woman, Mary, would have been spending Christmas alone.
However, Julie was adamant Christmas was a family-only event, but eventually conceded and Mary attended.
Julie admits her actions were “not gracious”, but included the story because “even though you’re exposing your lack of grace to the world, that’s just all of us anyway, so why pretend to be the wise, knowing one?”.
Julie hopes Tender will “remind people to pay attention to their own lives and their capacity to bear witness to each other”.
WIN A COPY:
Crosslight has 10 copies of Tender: stories that lean into kindness to give away.
To win one, simply tell us a story of grace you’ve witnessed and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Tender competition” in the subject line by 30 June.
The best 10 stories will win a copy, courtesy of MediaCom Education.
Tender is available through MediaCom Education, rrp $22.