Friday, January 16, 2009

Mercy: "Give me a break!"

This was my first thought one morning as I felt like my head was going straight for the chopping block. And it did. Without the details, it was about to be a bad day, and there was absolutely no way of going over it, under it, or around it---I had to go "through it." (Thanks, Mrs. Pankovitch, for teaching me this over and over again in the bear hunt at Hillview Elementary.) How do we brace ourselves when headed into stormy weather? As for me, I beg the Powers That Be for mercy on my own behalf. And guess what the answer was on this particular day? "Give mercy, and you will find mercy." A disturbing thought for someone who was self-absorbed in her own troubles as I was. But I accepted it into my heart and went on with my day, chopping block and all.

The outcome of my meeting was bleak, to put it mildly, and all I could do was hold back the tears to preserve my dignity. I drove off in my mom's car, which I had borrowed for a day while mine was in the shop.
"Ugh, triple ugh, and grrrrrr," I thought, "why doesn't life ever fall into place for ME?" Yes, there I went again, "me, me, me, me, me." Due to the news at the meeting, I knew I would continue to have more spare time on my hands and less money, so I may as well take this afternoon to gas up my mom's car and return it. I even had a pre-paid car wash coupon that I purchased the week before, so I could take the vehicle back in good shape. But, as I fueled Mom's white wagon and realized it was recently pampered, I noticed the gal across the service station island next to her black sedan---a color that shows every spot. I looked at my mom's wagon once again, then at my car wash coupon, and then at the lady. She reminded me of myself, maybe struggling in some way. Without thinking much, I walked up to her and gave her the coupon, "I already washed my car, and this is about to expire." Sorry Mom, but I'm sure you won't mind hearing that I was able to brighten her day, and mine.

This blog is not about "me, me, me." I'm way past that in my middle age. As good as I felt giving away a free $8.00 car wash, I completely failed just two months later when it wouldn't have cost me a dime to do the right thing. I was teaching skiing to some little kids, feeling picked on that I wasn't on the big hill any more after skiing with the teenage rippers for four days. My next assignment was back to the beginners. I figured I needed to "pay" somehow for the fun I had with the big mountain skiers, and I would just grin and bear it with the munchkins. But they were darling, and I bonded with them. So, when an adult learner came barreling down, heading straight into my little 4-year-old ski student and crashing as her ski tips touched ours, I growled with my eyes. "Grrrrrrrrrr." "Sorry," she apologized. I gave her an authoritative glance. "Watch it," I thought. I figured since I didn't
say the mean words, I was okay, right? But guess what, I still feel badly to have left this innocent person, who meant no harm, with a negative feeling about the world.

The difference between my little car coupon gift, which did cost a few bucks to give away, and the forgiveness I could have extended to the ski bunny, is Mercy. It would have taken more for me to act charitably in the second case, and this is where I failed. I didn't need the car wash, anyway, so it was really no sacrifice to give it up. But giving away
a part of myself, in being charitable at a time when I didn't feel so inclined, was the bigger test. One definition of mercy implies "a kindly understanding and tolerance in judging others." I hope next time I am faced with the opportunity, I will be able to give that person a break.

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