Have mercy!

Last week, I went into a store and left with a really interesting life lesson. The woman who worked there and I were discussing the importance of labeling our kids’ clothes so that they could be identified later in the Lost & Found bin. She mentioned that she had an embroidery machine at home and often used it for that exact purpose.

 

Then she told me a story about a time when she embroidered her teen daughter’s name in a large font on a prominent place on the hood of a jacket. She described the jacket’s various shades of pink and how much her daughter loved it. Another woman asked her about the jacket—where did she get it and how much did it cost—and then, a few days, the jacket went missing. “Eventually,” the woman at the store told me, “I saw her wearing that pink jacket. I could tell where she had picked out the stitches where my daughter’s name had been.”

 

I assumed the next part of the story was going to involve the authorities and an ugly argument, but I was wrong. “What did you do?” I asked her.

 

“As soon as she saw me, I could tell that she knew she was caught. So I went over to talk to her. I told her that I recognized the jacket and knew it was my daughter’s. Then I asked her if she would like me to embroider hername on the jacket. Knowing she thought I was just offering so that I could take the jacket back, I told her that she could come with me and stand right next to me while I sewed it.” This gracious woman embroidered another woman’s name—the name of the woman who had stolen from her—on the jacket she had bought especially for her pink-loving daughter without asking for anything in return.

 

At first listen, it may seem that this woman should’ve taught that thief a lesson. One might think: Now she’ll be stealing everyone’s stuff! Where’s the justice?! But there are moments when we are called to show mercy, and this angel listened to the call. I can only imagine what effect this had on the woman who had stolen the jacket. Was she so weighed down by guilt after this undeserved act of kindness that she could never wear the jacket again, or did she whistle happily as she walked away, congratulating herself on her good luck? No matter what the offender’s feelings were, the woman I met at the store that day was content with her response to the ill treatment she had received all those years ago.

 

This kind of mercy, especially when coupled with unexpected forgiveness, warms my heart and makes me all teary-eyed. These glimpses of what humans can do for each other when we’re not trying to tear each other down is refreshing. I like this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I have always found that mercy brings richer fruits than strict justice.” Maybe that’s the question to ask when we suffer wrongdoing at the hands of others: What fruits will my response bring?

 

In Micah 6:8 we read the best prescription for doing what is good and what’s required of us: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That just about sums it up.

The last tooth

Ezra, age 5, already 6 baby teeth gone!

Our youngest son lost his last tooth today. There was little fanfare, just him showing me a giant-looking molar resting at the bottom of a plastic sandwich bag. It’s been loose for a few weeks, and he’s been asking everyone to stick their fingers in his mouth and test its wiggliness—a great idea in the middle of cold and flu season.

 

When he joined our family at age 5, he had already lost six teeth, so the Tooth Fairy wasn’t really a big deal for him. We were told by a friend also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that it is customary to throw a baby tooth out in an open field and make a wish. We tried that a few years ago for Tooth #7, but it was raining that day and he wanted to stay inside while he tossed the little baby incisor. I have no doubt that tooth is still somewhere in our garage.

 

Call it Truthful Parenting or Downright Laziness, but we’ve never done much with baby teeth magic, even for our older three kids. For our oldest twin daughters, I tried a couple of times to conjure up a tradition. We placed a Mason jar full of water by their beds and instructed them to drop their little tooth inside, watching it drift to the bottom. Then in the morning, the water was full of purple food coloring and light blue glitter and a coin sporting a baby-toting Sacajawea (aka “Golden Dollar”). But it wasn’t too long before I ran out of golden dollars or I forgot to remove the offered baby tooth, and the Tooth Fairy retired.

 

There’s something bittersweet about these “last time” moments. The first tooth is cute and tiny, and the last one looks like something an archeologist would dig up and place in an exhibit about Early Man. It’s the same with the first day of kindergarten. They will let you dress them in apple-themed dresses or shirts with a big, yellow school bus emblazoned across the front. Then the last first day of high school comes and you can’t even remember what they were wearing. You just prayed that they drove safely and remembered to slow down in the school zones.

 

As we put him to bed tonight, our youngest son smiled impishly as he told us he would put his tooth under his pillow and get some money. Now that he’s a street smart 9-year old, he’s just looking for a quick buck. He knows the score about the Tooth Fairy, but he’s not opposed to getting in line when his parents are handing out free money.

 

Of course, we’ll do it. We’ll play the game, because seeing him do the “Uh-huh…oh yeah…I got money” celebratory dance in the morning will be well worth the price. And parenting is so much about doing our best to start off great, realizing that we often miss the mark and then, hopefully, taking a second to notice when a last time is passing by in front of us.