Thursday, January 15, 2015

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.  Matthew 5:7

My mom was not a religious woman.  And to tell you the truth, she did not appear to be a particularly spiritual woman either.  She was a member of the Greatest Generation.  So for her, being religious or spiritual would be a practice of self-absorption, and she was never self-absorbed. 

She was all about work and sacrifice. 

She could look in the mirror every morning and her reflection would be simple:  a woman who cared for herself, cared for her husband, cared for her family in the best ways she knew how.   

She was not someone who would tell a sad story, nor was she a woman who would share her own sad stories with you. 

Yet they were there--

… tucked under a childhood broken by divorce;

… stashed under the rejection of her stepfather; 

…buried under the wound of dropping out of high school; 

…concealed under the fear of traveling to unknown places all over the world; 

…submerged in the daunting task of raising four children, most days on her own;

…revealed in an overuse of alcohol to calm, numb and mask. 

Oh how I loved the woman she was, the mother she was, the friend she was. 

I was thinking of her yesterday, when I was with a little group of second graders at one of my schools.  The kids were being kids, and I enjoyed their little earnest faces of hope and promise.

I remembered my first year teaching.  I had a group of 21 young people, aged 13-21, with varying degrees of exceptionality, primarily what we referred to as mental retardation.  I had several students with severe cerebral palsy, as well as three in wheelchairs.  I loved those kids, and my aide, Mrs. Bales.  It was great work, and a great privilege.

My mom loved my school stories.

I’d stop by after work and tell her about what James did, or the time I found Melvin on the floor in the bathroom folding paper towels into origami shapes, or the way Ellen took care of little Shirley.  My mom got to know their names, their needs.  

And every once in awhile, she’d show up in the door of my classroom with cupcakes.

Oh how my students loved her impromptu visits. 

There’s no way in the world my mom would ever tell anyone that she did such a thing, that she showed up in my students’ lives to do something utterly generous and kind.  But she did. 

I'm probably one of the few people in the world who knew about her small acts of kindness, and who knows how many more there were?  We'll never know.  She was fierce yet meek. 

My unspiritual, unreligious mother showed me what mercy was really all about. 

And in her acts of kindness, I saw the glory of God, though she uttered not a word about Him.