Love is kind, St. Paul tells us. And oftentimes kindness costs us almost nothing, but brings great changes to the world around us. For this week’s tip on practicing mercy, here are three little stories from three different contributors, about how kindness went farther than expected.
1. An encounter on the shady side of the post office
Yesterday, I went to pick up some boxes at the post office. I’m making banana bread for one of my daughters, oatmeal cookies for the other, and chocolate chip cookies for my son. Nothing says “hi and I love you” like a care package from home filled with stuff you can’t buy.
I didn’t need to spend money so I left my purse in the car as I headed to the post office door. An older woman, lean and leathered from life as much as the sun, approached me. “Do you have any change? I just need 65 cents.”
It was an odd amount, but I honestly didn’t have a dime on me. I told her so and ran in to get my boxes.
Sixty-five cents. When I got back to the car, I rummaged through my purse to find the coins and brought them to her. She was sitting on the shady side of the post office, weeping.
“I didn’t have my money with me. Here’s 65 cents. Why do you need 65 cents?”
She wiped her face. I could see how beautiful she was as a young girl, and still was, as a tired worn thin woman. Why was she out here against a brick wall?
“Oh, it’s what I need for the shelter. I had the rest.”
Do shelters cost, I wondered, realizing I had no idea and should learn more about how the homeless cope. I asked her if she knew about the daily dinner offered at our church across the street. She nodded. “That’s why I’m here.”
I was going to ask her why she was crying. She volunteered. “I’m burying my mother tomorrow.”
“Oh! I am sorry.” She pocketed the change, and added, “My mom’s been gone all summer. They’re finally getting around to it. She’s been kept in a refrigerator all this time.”
It was clear this pained her to no end. “I have a ride to the service tomorrow; it’s in Arlington.”
I asked for her name and her mother’s name. She told me. I told her I’d keep her whole family in my prayers, and I left. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do more, it was that I didn’t know what to do. I also knew I had other children to pick up, so I couldn’t linger.
The next day after I’d sent my younger kids to school, I googled this woman’s name. Ought I to go to her mother’s burial? I didn’t have a reason other than that I would want people at my parent’s grave site.
Google informed me the service was taking place even as I was looking for the information. So I couldn’t go, even if I wanted to.
Still, I wished I could do more for this woman whose beautiful face was stamped with grief for all sorts of reasons. So say a prayer today for her and her family. We won’t get to meet these women until we one day discover how big our family truly is, but we can still be a part of their lives, at least by saying a Hail Mary for their comfort, peace, and healing.
And I do have to go mail the care packages. I know which post office I will visit.
Sherry Antonetti is a former special educator and currently a freelance writer and mother of 10. She writes at Catholicmom.com and her blog, Chocolate for Your Brain. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.