“You’re wearing two watches,” a student commented last week, noticing the brown leather bands wrapped securely around my wrist.

“Actually, only one’s a watch,” I said, holding up my arm. “The other’s just a bracelet.”

An author friend, Lucinda Secrest McDowell, had given it to me a couple of years ago in celebration of her book launch. A silver metal plate secured to the strap says one word: Grace. This year, every morning before heading to the rural school where I teach English, I’ve snapped it around my wrist to remind myself to have more grace with my students, with my family, with myself.

More often than not, when I unsnap it at the end of the day, I have failed miserably – just ask my family. “It’s too much,” I often lament to my husband. The pandemic. The election. The financial strain of keeping up. The isolation. The fear of getting sick. The stress from the additional measures designed to keep everyone safe.

According to some, ‘grace’ means to get something undeserved. It also means to give it. This includes offering grace to those we disagree with, those who we feel have wronged or disparaged or disappointed us. As I listened to the number of people calling for unity following last week’s election, I thought, It isn’t always possible. Some issues we are just not going to agree on. However, it is always possible to choose grace.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear,” the apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29 (ESV).

Later, he says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6 ESV). The word ‘salt’ was a common metaphor for ‘wisdom.’

Or what about these words from Paul’s pal Peter? “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (I Peter 4:10 ESV). In other words, that undeserved kindness, love, acceptance, mercy, help or ability that you received from God? Use it to serve the folks you work with and live with or go to church with even though they don’t deserve it, because you don’t deserve it either.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).

Do my words build others up? Are they full of wisdom? Am I choosing to serve others with the gracious gifts that God has given me or am I using them to tear others down?

In this challenging season, I am more aware than ever of our collective need for grace. Perhaps the student who mistook my bracelet for a watch was right after all.

What time is it?

Time for grace.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Thanksgiving Blessing and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.