Homelessness, Theology

Mercy on the Micro Level

“What do you think of when you’re confronted with the word Mercy?” a beloved professor asked as I walked briskly past her office one day.

“I think of women.” Her face creased in thoughtfulness.

“Why?” she ventured, her voice was lowered and for a fleeting moment I could see her as the inquisitive child she must have been.

“Well,” I leaned against her door frame, “I suppose because of the way women nurture children. So, when I think of mercy, I picture a woman comforting a child.” Just a half of a year later, I would answer this question differently – an answer colored by my experiences at the shelter, however short my time there has been.

I am sorely tempted to assert, like many others, that Mercy and her sister Compassion are seeds planted in the ground of Unity. My personal experiences, however, are altogether different – Unity was a product of Mercy first, and Compassion second. Genuine unity cannot be achieved without first engaging Mercy and then enacting Compassion.

So, we are back at square one; What is Mercy?

It is the stillness of our own desire; it is the moment in which we yield control and listen with suspended judgement. In this vacuum of our silent Mercy our contemporaries blossom, thus you are able to see them for the first time. Compassion is the enactment of Love. It is a seed that is planted within the ground of Mercy, a soft green tendril that – if properly minded – will bud and blossom into Unity.

I met my beloved brothers and sisters on a cool May morning armed only with Mercy, rattling in my pockets like spare change. I spoke with them, listened to them, advocated for them, joked with them, ate with them and hugged them. I cam to love them with a deep unconditional love that I never knew I possessed.

I walk the streets of my neighborhood each night with my dog. I am seen by them, held and protected by them in ways I will never know, but most importantly I see them. I see them walking gingerly on swollen, infected feet. I see them huddled in the crannies of old brick buildings in my neighborhood trying to sleep undisturbed. I see them, and I understand that my heart is no longer mine, it lives outside of my body in the flesh and bone of these street wraiths, our hearts beating the same rhythm. From those precious few men I am able to extrapolate outwards to understand that  my heart beats in ALL of your bodies – known and unknown alike. We are a global community of hearts, all unified in the anatomy of the Divine and the human condition.

You are me and I you – we are forever bound to each other.

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