Katy McQuaid has written an illustrated children’s book series entitled “Everybody Loves Grace,” which features sage life advice for both kids and adults. The series is told from the perspective of her 13-year-old Finnish Lapphund, named Grace.
McQuaid worked for the CIA for more than 30 years, and is the founder of McQuaid Corporate Performance. I had an opportunity to speak with McQuaid to discuss her book series, and her four life lessons: be kind, be brave, cuddle up, and have fun.
The Epoch Times: What motivated you to write the book series “Everybody Loves Grace”?
Katy McQuaid: It actually came after a walk-up at Denver Health. The head of the ambulance squad, the captain, stopped dead in his tracks, and he petted Grace, and she looked deep in his eyes. He said, “If I could only start my day like this every day.” I had friends for years tell me to write a book. And I said that story really isn’t [my] story, it’s Grace’s story about how everybody just loves her and her ability to impact people’s lives just by looking in their eyes.
The Epoch Time: How did your career in the CIA influence what you wrote in the book series?
Ms. McQuaid: For 12 years, I lived overseas, and I lived in a lot of tough places. The influence was I always did work with children or I would see children on the streets. When I lived in Afghanistan, we would go [to] an orphanage occasionally, and I just have a heart for children. I see children with far less than what I grew up with, or what many kids in the United States grow up with. I wanted to convey that there’s hope and there’s love no matter what your circumstances are. We can make an impact on people’s lives. Grace does it every day.
The Epoch Times: How can simple acts of kindness have a profound effect on others?
Ms. McQuaid: A simple act of kindness can make somebody feel like they’re seen, and that they’re being heard. Grace takes that extra minute or three minutes to be with somebody, and they feel like somebody cares, that somebody is listening, somebody notices, [and] somebody asks. That’s what a simple act of kindness is. For Grace, it could be as simple as just looking in their eyes, and when she does that, of course, she looks straight down into their heart. It’s about the gift of presence. Just writing a simple thank you note is a simple act of kindness. Writing a note of congratulations. Bringing in somebody’s newspaper. Bringing in a trash can for an elderly neighbor. Offering to take an elderly neighbor to a doctor’s appointment. That’s a simple act of kindness.
The Epoch Times: What does it mean to be fully present for someone, and why is that so important?
Ms. McQuaid: The gift of presence is holding a space for somebody. It’s listening. It’s holding a space for somebody to talk and share what’s on their mind. That’s what the gift of presence is. It’s about not being on our cellphone, not thinking about the next errand we have to do, but fully being present with someone as they’re speaking or when we’re spending time with them and not being distracted by technology and what else is going on in our mind. Really what the gift of presence does is it creates a safe space. It creates connection, and then that connection leads to trust, a feeling of love at some level, and kindness.
The Epoch Times: How does one turn a negative situation into a positive situation?
Ms. McQuaid: I think one way is to truly believe that things happen for a reason. It’s here to teach us a lesson. Taking a step back and reflecting on the situation and what I learned from it. How can I apply that to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future or how I can use that to serve in the future?
The Epoch Times: Why is the journey just as important as the destination?
Ms. McQuaid: Because so many important things happen on the journey. There are times in my life I’ve been focused on the next promotion, the next job, and I’ve missed what’s happening currently. And that’s actually part of being present. Being present on the journey and enjoying the things that are happening on the journey are just as important as when we get there.
The Epoch Times: What can people learn from taking the road less traveled?
Ms. McQuaid: I feel like I did that in so many ways in my life. In taking the road less traveled, I became my own self. I was true to who I am, and it allowed me to be who I am, and have the courage to be who I am instead of following the more popular route. At the agency, by taking the road less traveled, I got some really great opportunities and unique assignments because I was willing to do what others weren’t.
The Epoch Times: What advice do you have for someone who is moving to a new place, whether it’s a kid who is starting at a new school or an adult at a new job?
Ms. McQuaid: My first word of advice is it takes six months to settle in. No matter how many times one moves, it takes about six months to wake up and feel like you belong. Have courage and strength through those first six months to know there are going to be highs and lows, and that it can be difficult in those first months. But rest assured, in about six months, it’s like magic. You wake up one day and think, “This is where I belong.”
The Epoch Times: What do you hope readers take away from the series?
Ms. McQuaid: My overarching goal is to touch people with kindness, and for them to understand the impact that kindness can have. But also, I want to encourage. I want people to feel a sense of empowerment and courage and hope as they go through life every day. While these are children’s books, they’ve been really impacting parents and adults. An 80-year-old woman named Grace came to one of the book readings, and at the end of the book reading, I looked up and she was just shedding tears. She said, “Katy, the world needs more of this. We just need kindness.” My goal for the book is if there’s any way to touch people’s lives, children, parents, 80-year-old Graces through Grace’s story, that’s what I want to do. I want to touch people with simple acts of kindness.