Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Lesson in Mercy

Disclaimer:  I tell this story not to show what a good job I did, but to show how God uses children to teach us. It says in the Bible (Matthew 6, specifically) to do our good deeds quietly, in secret, so that God knows the good deeds we do, but that our right hand doesn't even know the money our left hand gives to the poor. By telling you about it, it takes away the goodness of the deed, as your regard is my reward. But I hope it inspires, as I was inspired by the original idea.

One day last week, HeyMama and I were driving home from school. At an intersection, a gentleman was holding up a sign, walking between the rows of cars waiting at the red light. It was a very cold day to be out holding a sign.
"Mama, what does that sign say?"
"It says, 'Hungry and homeless, please help'. "
"Then we should give him some money."
I spent a few moments talking about how sometimes people ask for money for food and shelter, but end up using it on alcohol and drugs instead of food. They might use our money to hurt themselves instead of helping themselves, and we'd rather donate our money to organizations that we know won't spend it on harmful things. Blah blah blah.
"But maybe he really is hungry. We should give him some food."
Yes Joy, maybe he really is hungry. Your daughter is right. Instead of trying to convince her to be as cynical as you have become, perhaps you should listen to her charitable impulses and give the man some food!
HeyMama was right. She was preaching to me the message that I would like her to carry in her heart throughout her life:  People need help, and we were put on this earth to help them.

I remembered seeing the idea of "Mercy Bags" somewhere online. They were gallon ziplock bags filled with shelf-stable foods, including apple sauce, granola bars, a bottle of water, and other assorted items of daily life. I couldn't remember the details, but I knew they weren't all food... The woman made them and carried them in her car. When she encountered people asking for money to buy food, she gave them the bag.
So I mentioned this to HeyMama. I promised her that the next time we saw him, we would bring him some food.

Today, while tucking healthy and nutritious food into the cart around the carseat of my plump and healthy baby, I remembered the Mercy Bag idea. Certainly, while buying food for my well-fed family, I could pick up a few things for others. So I did. And at the checkout, I saw little boxes of Valentine heart candies. So I grabbed one. And when I got home, I made up a few baggies with the supplies. I packed them into the van on the way to pick up HeyMama from school. And when we got in after school, I told her about them. We had a mission to complete on our way home.

It took a while. I made a wrong turn, and missed the intersection completely. It wasn't our usual route from school. I had to loop back through Brookline to find the gentleman. But there he was, in the cold January wind, holding up his sign. But this time, instead of averting my eyes when he approached my window, I rolled it down and handed him a bag.
"Hi, this is for you."
"Wow, thanks!" His eyes grew big. "Applesauce! Lip balm! Candy hearts! This is great! Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome. I hope you enjoy it."
"I will! My name is John."
"I'm Joy. Nice to meet you John. Have a good day."
And then the light turned green.

I'm not sure if he had a good day, but we did.
And now there's not a homeless guy at the intersection, there's a guy named John at the intersection. And we know he likes Necco candy hearts.
And we'll certainly have a snack for him the next time we're in that intersection.

So now we have a stash of food in the back of the van. Because when your 5 year old tells you to have mercy on a man standing out in the cold, you should. God has spoken through lesser messengers.

Our mercy bag.

1 comment:

  1. Don't discount the fact that you were there to listen. In our world, it's very easy to be "not there." Either physically or mentally. But you were there, in both senses, so this idea could be born, planned, accomplished. Thanks for the post, Polly