Unmerited Favor

An elegance encompassed her mother as they walked down the lane.
When they reached a crossing, she presented her young daughter her hand.
The girl seemed distracted and unaware, the offer was in vain.
Her mother reached down and pinched her cheek as a gentle reprimand.

"Pay attention and hold my hand" she mumbled to the little lass.
The girl complied and the two of them started toward the other side.
"What did papa mean by grace?" the girl asked, as they had come from mass.
"Grace? I think you're too young to understand it," her mother replied.

The stunning beauty of peach blossoms could be seen as they walked on.
Near this tree laid a man upon a bench, his clothes tattered and worn.
He had slept on the bench all night, his shoes he'd set down on the lawn.
The girl was a bit hesitant to pass by, her face draped with scorn.

A lone flower from the tree was freed by a gentle sudden gust.
It leisurely made its way down to rest on the man's whiskered cheek.
His eyes opened to the youngster's fretful demeanor of disgust.
The two continued to walk past him, without an effort to speak.

The mother's steps slowed down until they finally came to an end.
She turned around and reached into her purse with a smirk on her face.
Out came a handful of notes of the kind that people like to spend.
She bowed and said to the girl's ear, "Show that man the meaning grace."

The confounded youngster paused for a moment, and then went along.
She approached the man where he laid and said to him "This is for you."
He slowly pushed himself upwards, as he didn't seem very strong.
A glowing smile came to his weathered face, he no longer seemed blue.

His shaking old hand reached for the gift, fitting it into his palm.
He said, "Thank you, princess. May God bless you and your mother as well."
The girl nodded and grinned, no longer nervous around him, but calm.
She giggled and knew that this had changed his day, she surely could tell.

She left the man with a smile, then went back to where her mother was.
When she reached her mother, she asked the question, "Do I have grace now?"
With charm her mother replied, "Not yet, but that man on the bench does."
The poor girl was baffled, and as they walked home, the girl wondered, "How?"

A week had passed, and the girl was in her room making up her bed.
From the window she could see a white car pulling up to their place.
Her grandparents had come over to have lunch, drink tea and break bread.
The girl had a thought, she'd ask her grandfather the meaning of grace.

A man as experienced and wise as he surely must know this.
As they shared a meal, the little girl found the right moment to ask.
"Grandpa, I'm trying to find the meaning of grace. What did I miss?"
"Grace, you say?" he asked while he wondered if he was up to the task.

Her grandmother, who's hair was auburn, so auburn, gave him a wink.
He smiled at her, chuckled for a moment, then his answer he gave.
"Well, for me, grace is like a nibble on the cheeks, that's what I think."
"I obtain it from your grandmother, mostly when I don't behave."

The girl's parents chortled a bit, and her grandmother shook her head.
She looked at her granddaughter and said "He's saying I nag a lot."
"I'm so confused," the girl said. "Are you sure I'm not being misled?"
"It's simple," her grandfather answered. "It all lies within the thought."

"You can't have it unless you give it away, then it's yours no more."
He continued, "It's not ours to own, but it's a way to live by."
The girl still had no clue, and all the talk was making her brain sore.
She just rolled her eyes, sipped on some of her iced tea wondering "why?"

The question lingered for a while, like a tiny thorn in her side.
A few weeks passed, and along came a sunny and warm afternoon.
The girl asked her dad to go for a leisurely bicycle ride.
He loved the idea and decided that they'd be leaving soon.

Down a local trail they went, peddling with tandem repetition.
The meadow surrounding them was rife with honeybees and flowers.
Her father sped up and pulled out in front as if on a mission.
But the girl was all tuckered out, as if she'd been riding for hours.

With smoothness he rode, giving a childish grin as he looked behind.
His confidence crashed just as he did, his tire meeting a lone stone.
A gasp could be heard from nearby, as the girl thought he'd lost his mind.
Her father laid dazed upon a green bush, which is where he'd been thrown.

"Papa! Are you alright?" she shouted as she peddled to his aid.
He stood up, shook his head twice and answered with "I think so, honey."
"That wasn't graceful of me," he said of the mistake he'd just made.
The girl nodded, then raised a brow, as if he'd said something funny.

She asked, "You mean that not crashing your bike is the true path to grace?"
He laughs and says, "No, no sweetie. That's found in the way that we care."
"The path to grace is divine, indeed. It comes from a blissful place."
"A place?" she asked herself softly. As they rode on, she wondered "where?"

A few months passed, and the question started to slowly fade away.
The brisk months came along, and the girl hid in the warmth of her bed.
A cold silence encompassed the house until the phone rang that day.
Her mother answered the call, and from her voice was a sense of dread.

The girl stood up and listened in, curious as to what was wrong.
It seemed that grandma had fallen ill, and it wasn't just the flu.
The ambiance became ominous, though they knew grandma was strong.
They quickly drove to the hospital as all of their worst fears grew.

The girl's grandmother, her hair auburn, so auburn, laid in despair.
She maintained a subtle smile, even though her state wasn't the best.
Beside her was grandpa, his eyes dripping as he sat in a chair.
He'd been there all night with her, never taking a moment to rest.

As the girl and her parents entered the room, the love could be felt.
Grandma happily turned her head toward them and let out a deep breath.
"What took you so long?" she asked, ignoring the crisis she'd been dealt.
It was obvious that she was scared of nothing, not even death.

They all walked to her side, their grimaces fully covered with tears.
For many hours they stayed with her, doing what families do.
With laughs and whimpers, they shared memorable stories of the years.
But certainty came knocking on the door, the moment nearly through.

Grandma then lifted her finger, inviting the youth to come near.
The young girl approached her with eyes opening wide, tears trickling down.
A question came from the old woman, one that no one thought they'd hear.
"You still looking for the meaning of grace?" she asked without a frown.

The silence deafened the room, and the girl's heart skipped a beat or two.
The child was speechless, but was able to give her elder a nod.
Grandma smiled and said, "Remember what your grandfather once told you."
The girl reflected a moment, recalling it to be quite odd.

Grandmother giggled, having one last bit of her wisdom to speak.
"It will come to you when you're not looking for it," she softly said.
With the last of her strength, she reached up and pinched the girl on the cheek.
A tear touched her hand as she lost her battle and tilted her head.

Enchanting voices could be heard in tandem at church the next day.
A celebration of a remarkable mother, wife and friend.
Dozens of people came to grieve, be there for each other and pray.
The girl's faithful father closed the service as it came to its end.

At the door stood the girl's grandfather as they all began to leave.
He held a basket of cookies, the last batch made by his late wife.
Each person was given one as a kind token to help them grieve.
It was a nice final tribute to the loss of a treasured life.

He could be heard sharing words to those leaving, not being discreet.
The girl, with her mother in hand, were among the last to depart.
"May God's grace be with you," he said gently as he shared grandma's treat.
They each took a cookie wrapped in a cloth, a tasteful work of art.

As the pair walked home that morning, the young girl looked up at the sky.
Even though it was daylight, she could still see the North Star above.
She smelled the sweetness of the cookie in her hand, making her sigh.
As she thought of her lost grandmother, across their path flew a dove.

Upon a bench it landed, one familiar to the girl's mind.
The meager old man was there again, wrapped up and getting some sleep.
As the pair of them passed by the man, the girl stopped to look behind.
She turned and walked to the slumbering man without making a peep.

In the briskness the man slept in peace, even though he appeared meek.
In her hand, the girl held the cookie, smelling its scent once again.
She slowly laid it next to his head, a small crumb grazing his cheek.
She stepped back, gave a grin and went home, all the while wondering "when?"

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This poem was originally a personal challenge between two friends, an atheist and a Christian pastor. The challenge was this; how well could the writer, an atheist, convincingly capture the essence of spiritual grace to the satisfaction of the pastor?