by Tina Bachmeier |
“Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.” — Pope Francis, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy
One day in December, while sitting in the basement of a warm, dry, Wi-Fi-filled teahouse, a man walked out of the bathroom and immediately grabbed my full attention. Time stopped. Noise dissipated. He wasn’t being loud or disruptive; he was just straightening his slightly disheveled self. Tightening the straps on his backpack, he was like a little kid on his way into school — but his load was heavier.
He nervously and meekly asked the room of studiers, families and scrabble players if anyone could spare some change for bus fare to the shelter. The comfortably noisy room fell silent. His face was overcome with a far too familiar look of disappointment.
Without breaking my gaze, I asked how much he needed and started shoveling in my bag. While he was explaining his extremely complicated bus route and doing mental math, I rustled through the ridiculous amount of receipts I had, and found two long-lived $5 bills. Completely flabbergasted at their mere existence, I quickly handed them over, asking if that would cover it.
His eyes filled with hope and love.
He spoke — a lot of things — I think words of gratefulness but I heard nothing. I was lost in his stiff, tired hands and lines of life on his face. And his eyes, so dark and warm, in no way tainted by the darkness of life or filled with hopelessness — they were merely full, full of … compassion.
I noticed he stopped moving excitedly, so I figured it was my turn to say something. I said: “Merry Christmas, sir.” There were so many things I wanted to say. So many questions I could have asked. He probably could have taught me quite a few things about grace and mercy. He probably could have really showed me what it means to be merciful. But just like that, he walked out of my life.
I should have thanked him, because in that three-minute interaction I was inspired to look deeply in every human’s eyes and discover the love awaiting me. Ten dollars is an insignificant amount of what I have. But him? He gave me everything he possibly could. He showed me mercy with his compassion and blessing of grace.
Pope Francis has challenged us to live this year being merciful to each other, listening to the call to gaze deeply and attentively at mercy, so we can see the beauty of God’s love in each of our lives.
Just a few days ago, this concept of mercy was foreign and completely out of reach from my understanding. But really, I believe it is quite simple. Mercy, being merciful, is merely the simplicity of meeting another human, peering into their eyes and offering them grace, peace, and everything you have.
Tina Bachmeier is a senior psychology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.