I sometimes worry that I enjoy falling asleep so much more than waking up. It seems that eagerness to get up and greet one’s day should be an indicator of a happy life. But when I woke up to a text message from my principal at 6:00 a.m. Tuesday morning announcing the season’s first snow day, I promptly deflated back into my bed and couldn’t imagine life being much better.
When I finally slid out of bed at 12:30, I papoose-ed myself in a blanket and drifted euphorically into my living room where I found the radiantly white landscape unreeling outside my window like a Beauty and the Beast montage. I offered it a look of great gratitude before settling into my couch. As I sat in warm silence, I watched tufts of snow march steadily to the ground and birds slice through the cool air and pines let loose downy waterfalls. The arrival of winter has all the makings of a miracle.
However, there is a magic to snow days that is not merely sensory, but spiritual. As I sat snowbound today with a mug of tea welded to my hand, I puzzled for a while over the soft felicity accumulating on my subconscious. In the end, my best guess is that it was grace. Despite being a cornerstone of my religious tradition, grace is something that I don’t often contemplate, and, due to this lack of contemplation, I’m not sure why. But I think it may have to do with the feeling that grace is tied to failure.
I am and have always been a self-proclaimed goody-two-shoes. I recall not even straying down the wrong corridors in my Harry Potter video game for fear of being scolded by a pixelated Hogwarts professor. I simply do not handle culpability well, especially in the eyes of others. This is unfortunate, because in every church service I’ve attended, the assurance of pardon—that reminder of grace—comes only after fleshing out our wrongdoings from the week. Thus, in my mind, grace becomes simply a get-out-of-jail-free card commemorating some significant failure.
However, this morning I began to question if a good as paramount as grace could really be contingent on something as fickle as failure. For me, the best moment of snow days is waking up to the realization that my shortcomings from the night before have been forgiven and all resultant trials for the day leveled. The worksheet I didn’t quite finish before bed has hours more to find completion and all the 6:00 a.m. scrambling in the teacher workroom melts away. The feeling is glorious. But the snow does not fall only on the ill-prepared. It falls on 4.0 students, kids flunking every class, and overwhelmed first-year teachers alike. In the same way, grace is a glittering instrument that we all hold in common, regardless of our nationality, sexuality, voting record, criminal record, religious affiliation, or social station. This is the true magic of snow days and of grace: they’re extended to everyone.
Now, I realize that there are those for whom snowstorms don’t mean respite from daily routines; they mean treacherous treks to work or simply that those adolescent yetis up north have an unfair climatic advantage. But I’m working on a metaphor here, and within the world of Midwestern high schools, there is a feeling of universal relief. You see, the true triumph of snow days is not sleeping in or catching up on assignments or admiring the fresh snowfall, but instead spending them with others. Snow days are not like essay extensions or varsity team selections; they are meant to be shared. My fondest snow day memories are barreling down hazardous roads in a mini-van stuffed with eleven friends or forming a sledding centipede at the top of Manhattan Park hill or sprawling out on my friends’ living room floor as we quietly work away on lesson plans.
However, here is where the metaphor breaks down. I’m afraid that certainly I (and perhaps, we) have been forgetting to appreciate the miracle of grace and truly celebrate it together. I get so swept up in sidestepping sin and practicing piety that I become distracted from the fact that grace is greater than and entirely independent from my successes or failures. It is something beyond my control that I must simply catch on my tongue when it comes. This does not mean that I give up the pursuit of goodness, but simply that there is no being better than or getting ahead with grace. It is meant to be shared.
But the metaphor breaks down in another way: grace is not merely seasonal, but a constant accumulation. So, the next time you’re in a church pew receiving the assurance of pardon or cozied up on a couch with friends or anywhere that you feel undeservedly whole, look around and imagine everything piled high with snow—ladies with icicle earrings, prayers rising like cloudy breaths, siblings with rosy noses, friends with snow-flecked hair—because grace is a daily miracle, and it’s not yours alone.
Gabe Gunnink (’14) lives in Seattle, where he works for a European travel company and gawks at the landscapes and skylines surrounding him. In his free time, he enjoys practicing Portuguese under his breath on city buses, running far enough to justify eating an entire pan of cinnamon rolls, and faithfully implementing Oxford commas.