The moment, seconds really, should have degraded into an inkblot, edges fraying, burrowing to lose itself among the billions of other moments, stored for retrieval at a later date when a similar moment showed up. Aha, I remember that.
This one Rises, floats on Top, bobbing up and down, making sure it isn’t lost. Remember this, it seems to say. Don’t forget this, it needs to say.
I’m walking Cross-Town on 47th. It’s dark. It’s early, 6:23 am. And, it’s Cold – sub 35° F, with winds gusting. Feels like 26° F. Biting.
I’m wearing a trench coat, knee length, its heavy lining leaning in on my shoulders. It’s zipped to the throat.
The fur lined leather gloves keep the hands and fingers toasty. I grip my case with one, and swing the other, the motion pulling me forward, the pace quick, the blood and bones warming from the movement.
And there he was.
Next to the China Moon Restaurant, not yet open.
He sits on a concrete sidewalk. Not anywhere near a sidewalk grate, those grates that push out warm steam from the center of the Earth in Manhattan.
He’s sitting on two beige cushions, stacked. Couch cushions pulled from a dumpster, remnants of a corporate office reno 40 floors up.
His hands grip a camouflage-colored blanket that’s wrapped around his torso. No gloves. Red hands. A blanket, oh so thin, a kerchief really. And no cardboard sign shouting: Help me! Please.
I peer into his tin cup, a few coins, matches, and a piece of crumpled scrap paper.
I look up. He’s rocking to stay warm, shivering, full body shakes, the cushions acting as a pendulum.
His eyes are closed, and do not open. My presence does not interrupt, he keeps rocking.
The elapsed time between two Humans takes seconds, and is wordless.
I turn away, and resume walking down 47th, heavy shoes now.
And, it hits me, aha: You friend, have no idea about the meaning of the Year of Mercy, or Mercy, period.
Inspired by: Mark K. Shriver, from This Merciful Year (NY Times, Nov 24, 2016):
But as the Year of Mercy progressed, I realized that what Pope Francis meant by mercy had almost nothing to do with what I thought it meant. I had considered mercy from an intellectual perspective and believed the pope was essentially calling me to be nicer to people. But he is calling on us to live mercy on a deeply personal basis that changes the very essence of who we are.
In his book “The Name of God Is Mercy,” he described an episode from his time as a rector in Argentina. The parish church sometimes helped out a woman whose husband had left her, and who had turned to prostitution to feed her young children.
“I remember one day — it was during the Christmas holidays — she came with her children to the College and asked for me. They called me and I went to greet her. She had come to thank me. I thought it was for the package of food from Caritas that we had sent to her. ‘Did you receive it?’ I asked. ‘Yes, yes, thank you for that, too. But I came here today to thank you because you never stopped calling me Señora.’ ”
The story forced me to think about how I treated people in need, particularly the homeless man I saw outside my office every day. I occasionally gave him money, but I didn’t stop and look him in the eye; I didn’t ask his name, let alone call him Mister.
Now I know his name is Robert. When I give him money or buy him breakfast, I ask him how he is doing. I don’t do it every time I encounter a homeless person, but I am getting better. I have enjoyed learning people’s names, exchanging a few words and a smile.
Has it changed the world? No. But it has made me more aware, perhaps even more sensitive, to others’ struggles.
Pope Francis has renewed my faith, and my faith in my church, because he sees a Catholic Church that works on the margins of society, a church that, as Francis says, is like a “field hospital” that must go into the streets and look for the “wounded.”
But — and this is very important — Francis’ message of mercy is much more than that: He challenges us all to not just provide support to the poor but to learn from them as well, to listen to them, to be with them.
And by poor, he does not mean only those who are struggling financially. He means those who have physical and psychological and spiritual problems. In other words, he means all of us. He is calling upon each of us to be truly merciful with one another, in real and meaningful ways. Not just being a bit nicer or writing checks to charity; no, he is challenging us to intimacy with one another, and with God.
“…But you held your course to some distant war,
In the corners of your mind…”
- Thank you Susan for: Mark K. Shriver, from This Merciful Year (NY Times, Nov 24, 2016)
- Photo – Moshlab
- Related Posts: Commuting