Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh, Mercy...

So I went with a pastor last Friday to deliver a box of food and an electric fan to the woman who'd called the church. She called a lot and her requests increased each time she called. As I've said, it's hard to know who's really in need and who's pretty much working the system. The (female) pastor and I pulled into the woman's run-down neighborhood and looked very out of place in our makeup and jewelry and nice car. We called the woman and asked if she could come out, since we couldn't tell which apartment she lived in. She came outside and started trying to make her way down the stairs. She was morbidly obese and had a lot of trouble with just a few steps, and we immediately told her we'd carry the stuff up to her instead. She was agreeable and when she turned around to make the laborious climb back upstairs, I saw she had a bloodstain on the back of her pale gray sweatpants. I just wanted to cry, seeing her in need of so much more help than we could really offer, and carrying what seemed like a pitfully small offering.

After we left, the pastor and I talked about compassion and mercy. She said she's noticed that I'm "high in mercy," whereas she's "high in compassion." I asked how she defined each and she said she thinks of compassion as listening and counseling and helping people find their way, and she thinks of mercy as giving people immediate, practical help, to the point of giving the shirt off one's back. Food for thought.

On Sunday, I was struck by the realization that I could have become that woman if I hadn't had a family to help me with my panic attacks and so many other things. Later, in a class at church, the idea of helping others, but not so much that we take away their chance to find their own path, came up. I'm really not sure what to make of that yet. I mean, I understand it, and at the same time I wonder how one finds that limit. People can't listen or function unless their most basic needs are taken care of. I'm not talking about the old expression, "People can't listen until their bellies are full." I still don't know what my relationship with God is, so I have no desire to go out and preach or anything like that in the slightest. I'm just in mercy mode right now, I guess.