Maybe the Key to Mercy

Hallelujah Anyway

I am reading Anne Lamott’s “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy.” In it, she makes an interesting observation. In the story of Jonah and the parable of The Prodigal Son, we are left with questions, not answers:

  • Does Jonah ever get over himself?
  • Does the older brother attend the feast for his prodigal brother?

Left unanswered all this time, all these centuries. What to make of this? Are we waiting for a sequel?

Maybe the answer is ours to give. We pray, Grant us mercy, Lord. But maybe the very mercy we want pouring down on us, the very intervention we long for, is realized as we give our own answers to the two questions. To what degree am I willing to get over myself? How able am I to celebrate the return of an undeserving one?

Deep Sunday thoughts.

Posted in compassion, mercy, philosophical maelstroms | Leave a comment

“I Can’t Be in Class with Men,” she says.

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IT HAPPENS EVERY AUGUST, when the refugee mothers who no longer need child care in order to attend English class (because their youngest enters Pre-K) “graduate” to classes in the main building. There, classes are tailored to specific levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced – and their English will improve more quickly.

But it happens every August, that they are sad to leave us.
They know us.
They know the drill.
They’ve made friends.

For one or two of them, though, it’s about more than that. It’s about …… MEN. Being in class with men. Every year, there’s at least one for whom this is unthinkable.

“I can’t be in class with men,” Vina says.

I know what some of you are thinking. They are in the USA now. They need to adjust. Sure. But we are talking about a woman who, her whole life – 40 years  – has not associated with men outside her family. How to best help her with that adjustment?

I suggest she sign up for a mentor to meet with her weekly, and to request a woman. No, no, she says, shaking her head. She’s sure her husband will not allow that. Next day, though, she waits until the end of class, after everyone’s left the room, to ask a question.

“Marilyn? Do you do that, come to house for English?”
“No, I don’t. I work here in the classroom 3 mornings a week.”
“Oh,” she says. “Because I feel good to talk with you.”

Ahhhhh. So an absolute ‘no’ has some wiggle room, after all.

Perhaps, if I give her another day or two, or a week maybe, she will find her way to the office of the person who arranges for mentors and dare to take a chance on another person, another friendship.

Perhaps even…….Would it be too much to hope for, that she finds her way to giving her new class a chance? And that it would be okay with her husband, too?

Maybe it is too much.
Then again, maybe not.

Her English is very good. I would hate to see it deteriorate due to lack of use.

Posted in comfort zone, compassion, courage, languages, refugees | 2 Comments

What I Brought to The Wedding

table flowers

WHEN I WROTE TO MY FRIEND and told her I’d worn
a dress I felt good in rather than something I’m “supposed” to wear,
a ring found among my mother’s things, and
the chin my father taught me to keep up
(though I didn’t need the reminder on this day,
a day of joy) – she wrote back

“You forgot to mention love and faith.”

Did she say faith? Only she can testify to that.
I was too in the middle of it.
Too aware of moments faith ran out.

AN EMAIL in my inbox the other day,
a cry for help from a mother,
“I need some hope that some day we will have a life again.”

That sentence really got me.
It’s the bottom line, isn’t it?
We just want a little hope.

I was given some words.
They were helpful, she said.
And, who knows, but maybe that’s what I have to offer the world now,
some experience navigating rough waters.
And faith that occasionally seems to go missing,
but, turns out,
it’s just temporary blindness on my part.


Posted in celebration, faith | Leave a comment