Strange Mercy

"... and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

Location: Mid-Atlantic Sprawl, United States

I'm a former idealist turned 'defensive pessimist' who has concluded, after living on two coasts, two continents, and an island, that most of us spend our lives as prey, economically and psychologically. Awareness is the key to understanding this; but once we understand it, we may transcend it, choosing, when we can, to be neither prey nor predator.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Random Act of Kindness

I was standing in line at the bookstore, loaded for bear. With three new books on psychology and three new murder mysteries [often even better psychology textbooks than the 'real McCoy', if the writers are good and you know how to read them], I was looking forward to some lovely lazy learning evenings.

Once I got out of this line.

The corollary of Murphy's Law that deals with waiting in line usually dictates that the speed with which you pass through any checkout process will vary inversely with the number of other things you need to accomplish, the urgency with which you need to accomplish them, and the intensity of your desire to begone.

Except for anything to be accomplished which requires a bathroom; in that case, it becomes an inverse-square law.

The line plodded forward one notch, and I recalculated my hydrostatic pressure tolerances. It plodded forward another notch. Two people remaining in front of me; if one person at the registers paid cash, I'd be escaping in just a few moments.

Then he showed up.

A quiet man, past middle age, with an academic slouch and a remarkably calm facial expression. Horn rimmed glasses. Pocket protector. Quiet young girl, likely his daughter, walking with him.

He joined the end of the line, then looked startled, then looked speculative, then started moving up alongside everyone.

People glared at him. Arranged their elbows to impede his progress. "Excuse me", he said softly, and brushed past them. Slowly, methodically moving to the front of the line, looking at each of us as he passed.

He reached me. "O Lord, again?" I thought. There is a sign on my back, and lo, it is also written on my forehead: Ask Reasonably, And I Will Probably Let You In Line In Front Of Me. Little old ladies with one roll of toilet paper, kids with Tootsie Pops, harried moms with birthday sheet cakes, harried dads with big bouquets of flowers. Yes, yes, yes. And you too, yes, and also you. Enter into the glory, go in peace.

But oh, I was feeling the ... pressure. "O Lord, does this have to happen now?"

He stopped. He smiled. Warm brown eyes looked into mine. His hand rose, holding a piece of paper. His other hand held a single volume.

"Excuse me... "

"Of course," I said and moved back half a step. I wouldn't die, I wouldn't disgrace myself, and it wasn't as though people cut in on me daily at the bookstore. I'd live, and I'd like myself better than if I snarled and refused this small decent act.

"We have two of these, and you have the most books of anyone in line here. It's 20% off. We can't use both of them... Enjoy!"

And he handed me the paper. And smiled. And stepped back, and smiled again, and returned to the end of the line, where his daughter held his place, also smiling... as I called my startled thanks to them, and the cashier called to me.

96% of human beings are capable of love. This evening, two human beings demonstrated that some are also capable of kindness... even to total strangers.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

True Love

I have said "I love you" to my good beasts every day of their lives with me.

I've said it to them as I fall asleep with their dear heads nestled in my palm or their soft paws wrapped around my wrist or their little warm bodies curled up in my hair [it's long, there's lots of it. Plenty of room.]

I've said it to them on the way across a continent, reaching behind my seat as I drive, to stroke their little noses through the front of their carriers. I've said it out loud in turbulence-tossed aircraft knowing they were in the cargo hold and couldn't hear it but hoping by the grace of God they could somehow feel it. And shouted it as they emerged in their carriers at the baggage claim, looking around frantically for me, homing in on my voice with relief in every line of their bodies.
I've said it to them on the way to the vet, during the shots, on the way home.

And I have said it to them over and over and over and over and over at the end of their lives as the first injection takes effect and they drift off into a painless sleep and then the second shot is given and they drift off into the deepest Sleep of all. The last words they will hear in the land of the living is my voice, their mother's voice, telling them I love them.

And they have said it to me with every breath, every look, with their backs arched under my hands, their soft sides vibrating, with their dear warm bodies nestled into my hair, with their soft paws wrapped around my wrists for dear life when I awaken, home for the first time in two weeks, and find them holding fast to me in their very sleep.


Is it God's will that we love our creatures? More than a decade ago, I asked this question, as I prepared for an international move and frantically juggled hotel and airline bookings to make a nonstop flight, so that my animals would be on my plane, and not risk being lost in transit. As I explained the situation to one bored clerk after another, I wondered if I might not be practicing a mild form of idolatry, or a severe form of codependence.

Frustrated and exhausted, I took the question to Him. For the first time in my entire spiritual life, I was immediately pointed to a Bible verse, which I read... and after reading, literally fell to my knees and then lay prostrate in awe and praise.

The verse was Proverbs 12:10. In the King James translation, it reads thus:

A righteous [man] regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked [are] cruel.

Indeed the creatures matter. We were meant for the Peaceable Kingdom, and we will be reunited with all our loved ones there.

Isaiah 11: 1 - 9:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.