I received the following letter earlier this week from an old High School friend from Orange, California
November 29, 2016
The Reverend David W. Dendy
8601 Del Webb Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89134
I don’t know if you remember me or not but this is YdNed DiVad. You used to call me Yid the Kid. That nickname has carried with me all my life. Thanks David!
I moved to Orange from the old country in 5th grade and we had Mr. Smith together along with Doug Fields and Felicia Beatty. Do you remember them?
Anyway, for some odd reason you came to my mind the other day and I set out on a search to find you. There you were on Facebook. I googled you and there you were again. A pastor? Really? You? You were always a nice guy and I can see you as a pastor. The pastor at my church is kind of crazy, so I can see where you might fit that mold. LOL!
I looked at your website and see that you are teaching on Grace this upcoming weekend. That is what really served as the impetus for my writing. I know that we have not communicated in over 35 years since we graduated from Orange High together back in 1981. I hope you will indulge me as I tell you about my best friend in the whole wide world. Her name is Grace Charis. Do you remember her? She was in the same class as us. She went to California Elementary School, Yorba Junior High School and Orange High School with us. Do you remember her?
Let me tell you about her, in case you have forgotten who she was.
When I moved to Orange our family moved to Elizabeth Drive. We were the 8th house on the left off of Shaffer Street and Grace’s house was next door. She was house number seven. Manicured lawn, beautiful roses and the tall magnolia tree whose bloom was so fragrant always greeted me when I walked past her home. Cars were always parked in the garage, never in the driveway which had a nice gentle slope up from the street.
The Charis family were great neighbors. Mom and Dad were Ruth and Joseph respectively but we always called them Mr. and Mrs. Charis. One time I called him Joe and he gave me a squint like Clint (Eastwood) and scared me so bad even to this day I call him Mr. Charis with sincere deference. Their two sons who were a few years older than me were Joshua and Timothy. Two very strong biblical names they lived up to with their fierce competitiveness in sports and yet very gentle in the way they would play with us younger kids on the block. Both tall and strapping they were the envy of every young boy as the girls were always gazing at them and wanted to be in their presence. Smart, respectful, Godly, and kind in every way the Charis brothers were the talk of the block and had the respect of every parent, kid, teacher and adult.
And then there was Grace.
Oh Grace. She was the youngest of the Charis kids and protected by her older brothers Joshua and Timothy. Hurt Grace and you were in for a hurtin’. Be nice to Grace and you were in. Be mean to Grace and you were out. When the brothers weren’t around you had to be careful of the over protectiveness of Mr. Charis. And when Mr. Charis wasn’t around well then, Mrs. Charis was always close by.
Attractive, I guess as attractive as a mom could be back then, nice, great cook – she always made the best oatmeal cookies with raisins, just the way I like them. Her eyes were warm and deep brown and the way she would raise just one eyebrow at an extreme angle would always catch me off guard. If I said something that didn’t make sense she would stop, cock her head, look at me and then the eyebrow would go up. It wasn’t scolding, it wasn’t demeaning, it was more of an invitation, a moment for you to clarify yourself, rethink your position or just shut up and be quiet.
Smocked in her apron which always adorned her dress, I never did see Mrs. Charis in pants or jeans or even shorts for that matter. Hair up, I don’t think I ever saw it down, gentle smile, warm voice that always spoke encouraging words she was the favorite mom on the block. On the warm summer days, lemonade was her specialty. She was the quintessential lady. Warm, fresh baked oatmeal cookies on the tray, Lemonade in the tall glass pitcher, all were welcomed at the Charis home. She was the next best thing to Mrs. Cleaver.
Forgive my digression… back to Grace.
Everyone loved Grace. There were 13 of us kids on the block and six of us were about the same age, four boys and two girls. Three on three basketball, three on three football, three on three whiffle ball, kick the can, freeze tag, flashlight tag, hide and seek, riding bikes, swimming in the pool in my backyard, doing cannon balls and flips off the diving board and throwing the Frisbee were our seasonal activities.
Of the two girls Grace was always picked first for the teams. She was a boy’s girl. Athletic, fast runner, competitive like her older brothers, she could mix it up with the best of us boys. She was a little taller than I was in elementary school, but then again most girls were. Don’t call Grace a tom-boy though. Like her mother, Grace could give you a look that would make you rethink, reconsider or simply redact your previous positional statement.
Grace was cute. Short hair in a pixie cut that was never longer than touching her shoulders. Light brown hair that shimmered and shined bright in the Southern California sun, freckly face, brown, almost black eyes that drew you in and a smile that was wide and bright, all which looked so appropriate on her dark olive skin that tanned so easily.
But what was most striking about Grace were her hands. The Hands of Grace.
Over the years the strangest thing about the hands of Grace was that they always fit into my hands just perfectly. They were never too big, nor were they ever too small for my hands. They seemed to grow with me, never over sized, never undersized.
Always with fingernails painted and polished the hands of Grace were always open as if in a receiving position. Never once did I ever see a clinched fist. The hands of Grace never hit or slapped anyone or anything. Oh, but how they could pat.
In times of personal failure, during the time my parents divorced, there was Grace with her hands open to receive and give a hug. In the midst of my tears of sadness, the hands of Grace would pat my back, stroke my hair, rub my shoulders, cup my face, dry my tears, hold my hands ever so gently and squeeze my forearms with great strength that offered the security of a friend that would never abandon, would always remain by my side.
The hands of Grace never demanded my perfection. Never required me to be perfect. Were always open to receive me just as I am, never as I should have been. It was as if there was nothing I could do to make Grace love me more and there was nothing I could do to make Grace love me less. Grace was always there. The hands of Grace were always there to affirm, encourage, confirm, forgive and accept. She was so consistent over the years. I could always count on Grace.
David, over the years the saddest thing happened. I took for granted the hands of Grace.
Grace was always around. Always there. Always available. Always…
And my heart began to wander. In the most bizarre twist of feelings, I began to believe I didn’t deserve the grace of Grace. I wanted to earn my love. I wanted to take credit for my successes. I needed better defined boundaries. I needed the absolutes. Grace’s world had too many colors, I began to prefer black or white with no gray for things that were in between.
Grace and I went steady for years. All the way through high school. But then I went away to college and then my hands let go of the hands of Grace for over 16 years. I even got married and I loved my new life of absolutism. Knowing exactly what was right and what was wrong. Drawing well defined lines and knowing who was on my side and who was not. The cause and effect of such absolutism filled me up with self-righteousness. I knew what was right and when I did what was wrong there was always someone close by who was glad to tell me and point out my faults and deficiencies. I was glad to tell others of their deficiencies. I loved being held “accountable” and holding others accountable and this kind of sick cycle went on for 16 years before the whole charade came tumbling down.
I got divorced and where were the hands of Grace when I needed them? I felt the sting of the slap of solitude, I felt the punch in the stomach of the clenched fists of fundamentalism, I suffered the abandonment of friends letting go of my hands never to hold my hands again. I felt the backhanded smacks of friends who were so disgusted, so disappointed, so mad at my failure that their look alone into my eyes turned my broken heart to stone.
Oh David, how I longed for the hands of Grace.
And then the day arrived. It was a party. A gathering of church friends and there she was. Brown hair still shimmering and shining, the deep brown almost black eyes and that dark tan. But the thing my mind wondered the most about were her hands. Did they look the same? Have they changed?
Our eyes met, she tilted her head and she looked like her mother for just a moment and I was wondering if she was going to tilt her eyebrow at me. But the creases surrounding her mouth began to increase and her smile was as wide and bright as ever and it seemed that she floated over to me and then she reached out, and with her arm extended, her gait came to a stop and I looked down and there they were… the hands of Grace.
I thought my heart would burst. I thought the hands of Grace had been lost forever and right there before my wide open eyes were the hands of Grace… Open, warm to the touch, receptive, strong and soft all at once, fingernails painted and polished and before I knew what I was doing I reached out and grabbed her hands and our fingers interlocked and her hand was not too big or too small, it was just right!! Like it always was.
We began to talk, awkwardly at first, there was just so much to catch up on. I didn’t want to let go of her hands and she didn’t, wouldn’t, perhaps couldn’t let go of mine. As we conversed it was as if she simply met me where I was and I never felt so secure and at peace in my whole life.
Long story short David, we married later that year and I have been holding on to the hands of Grace ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I have stumbled, tripped and fallen since we married, but with each misstep, with each” two steps forward one step back” I find the hands of Grace catching me, supporting me, steadying me, holding on to me in a way that assures, and affirms.
Today my heart soars, my mind rests, my body relaxes, my soul rejoices… all because of the hands of Grace.
I saw your reservation for the 35th reunion on Facebook. I was looking forward to seeing you at the 35th reunion this past summer. For some reason, you weren’t able to make it. You mentioned something about being in Hawaii.
It’s been a long time and I doubt much has changed since we last saw each other on that warm June afternoon when we received our diplomas in 1981.
But one thing has changed David. Yes, my hair color has changed, my weight has changed and my sense of style has changed, but what has changed the most David are my hands.
Once calloused, once rough to the touch, once judgmental and cynical, once clenched closed, just wait until you see them for what they are today… open, warm to the touch, receptive and yet reaching out.
You see… the more I held hands with Grace, the more our hands rubbed together, the more our fingers interlocked, the more my heart was touched by the hands of Grace… well… the more I became like Grace.
Now… my hands get to hold other’s hands, now… my hands get to soften other’s hands, now… my hands of grace get to be graceful and gracious toward others.
My hands, my very life would not be the same without Grace, without the touch and the love of the hands of Grace.
I cannot wait for you to meet her David!
With the Hands of Grace,
Yid the Kid
(Editor’s Note to the reader… You all know who YdNed DiVad is… It’s simply David Dendy spelled backwards… And this is my creative and yet true story of God’s grace in my life…The Hands of Grace are a beautiful thing to hold and behold…)