The tragedy of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico has left many of us feeling sick over the immense destruction of natural habitat and wildlife. We are inundated with images of birds covered in oil, sea turtles struggling, and fisherman robbed of their livelihood. Yet, in the midst of disaster, all hope is not lost. A young girl named Grace reminded me, and hundreds more, that we could still make a difference. After several days of feeling sad and helpless over the sour situation in the Gulf, Grace made lemonade.
Five years ago, Grace attended one of my classroom presentations on reptiles held at the Nature Center on Kiawah. I can picture her now, sitting with her mom and dad, a red bow pulling her short, sun-blond hair to the side. The inquisitive questions she asked and her well thought-out responses literally took me by surprise. There was a look of pure excitement, of joy in learning that flashed in her eyes. Was she really only five-years-old? She and her parents stayed after the presentation and it was decided; we should be friends.
After years of getting to know Grace more, my admiration of her has only grown. The Christmas card photo of her alongside a loggerhead hatchling is two years old, and still hangs on our refrigerator. A kayak, carved out of driftwood, sits on my bookshelf; a gift Grace made for me after we went on a kayak trip together. This year, we experienced paddle boarding in the salt marsh – a first for both of us! Needless to say, when I received an email from Grace’s mom with a link to the National Wildlife Federation’s website with Grace in the headlines, I was not surprised.
Again, I was amazed. Grace had a simple fundraising idea that raised over a thousand dollars for the oil spill relief. With the help of her parents, Twitter, and Facebook, Grace set up a lemonade stand that attracted hundreds of people from her surrounding neighborhood in Alexandria, VA. Lemonade, apple juice, coffee, doughnuts, cookies, and snacks were given to those who made a minimum $5 donation to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Classmates brought their piggy banks. The principle of her elementary school came with his family to give a donation. Grace’s mom told the NWF, “So many people said they were feeling as we were – sad and not knowing what to do about it – and this gave them an outlet to do something positive.”
Singer/songwriter Bono continues his song entitled Grace with the following phrases: “Grace finds goodness in everything… Grace finds beauty in everything… Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.” My friend is Grace. You may never get to meet her, but you can show grace to the people you meet each day. You can exemplify grace in the midst of life’s tough situations. You can make a difference, just like Grace.