Sometimes you are the face of mercy to a loved one, or even a complete stranger.
Sometimes you are the friend showing up with the meal and the box of tissues just in time. It feels good, and you praise God that you got to be there, that you listened to the call and responded. We pray that we hear the call, and respond in grace, and this is a very good thing.
And then, sometimes, you are on the brutally humbling flip-side of that equation.
You find yourself on the receiving end of mercy, and I strongly suspect that this may be the better thing.
I’ll never forget a few minutes that I was there. It was a ordinary late winter evening with a quick stop in Costco. I put my items on the conveyer belt, then stopped dead in my tracks. I looked at the cashier with tears in my eyes and terror in my heart and said
“I don’t know where my five year-old daughter is.”
I suddenly realized she was no longer with me, and now I was begging a complete stranger to help me find her. I cannot remember what he said to me, probably something like “don’t worry, we will find her,” but what I will never forget is the kindness, reassurance, and mercy he spoke with. He was probably my age, but looked like he had lived a few more lifetimes, with some faded tattoos, and a bite that showed he hadn’t been privileged to have orthodonture like I had. He wore a name tag, but I’m sure his name didn’t end with any capital letters to prove his educational prowess.
He did not judge me.
There I was–an obviously over stressed, over busy, middle aged, middle class mom, who couldn’t even keep track of her children. Instead he was called to be the face of mercy and kindness to me at that moment. I stood on the receiving end of a work of mercy; I was afflicted and he comforted me.
Long story short we quickly found my daughter, and she didn’t even know she was lost until after we found her. And, now she loves to tell the story of when she was unwittingly turning her mother’s hair gray while being lost at Costco. We all chuckle and breathe a sigh of relief when we she gets to the punch line.
But, I was being taught a lesson, one that I know I needed, and still need regularly. I need to allow others to be the face of mercy to me. And, now I see that maybe the age old aphorism we heard on repeat as children “it’s better to give than to receive” may not be true.
Perhaps we should be telling our children “it IS better to receive than to give.”