Column: How to be merciful


The Pope has called on all humanity to spend this year showing mercy to others. The question around my buddy’s breakfast table was, how do you do that?

You can’t just walk down the street, tap someone on the shoulder and say, “Hey, how would you like a little mercy?” That’s the kind of stuff that gets you hauled off to the funny farm.

It was a tough question. One of the guys pointed out that cowboys in the old west showed mercy when their horse broke their leg and they had to shoot it.

“Yeah, but people aren’t horses, and we can’t shoot them.” There was a short debate on this point and a few names got written down.

“Judges show mercy by imposing lighter sentences,” another said.

“That’s clemency, not mercy, and some of them still should be shot.” Mostly we agreed, but we still hadn’t a clue how to proceed in the mercy business. Later one of the guys e-mailed a list of things we can do. Gestures to brighten another’s day.

Here are a few.

“Resist sarcasm – it’s the antithesis of mercy.” Besides, it just makes people sarcastic.

“Pare down possessions; share with the needy.” I don’t know whether anyone needs it or not, but I have a lot of junk in my garage. Stuff I’ve collected and thought I needed it at the time.

“Do something kind for someone you don’t like.” In the play “Becket,” the king is advised to treat his enemies with kindness. “It saps their strength.”

“Allow others to help you.” That’s a tough one. Someone helping me might see just how much junk I actually have in my garage.

“Buy $5 McDonalds gift cards to give to the homeless.” I didn’t know you could still buy something at McDonalds for $5.

“Put down the phone and really listen to someone.” I suggested this once to someone who spent 23 hours a day on the phone. It didn’t work. He sent me a text that read, “Send me a text.”

“Give something away that you really like to someone who would enjoy it.” Easy-peasy. I still have a garage full of really neat stuff.

“Dig out your most attractive stationery and write an actual letter to someone to show that you care.” Seriously? They don’t teach cursive in school anymore. Soon no one will know how to write.

“Pay the toll fee for the person behind you.” I like this one, especially when I am the person behind you.

And my favorite: “Invite people to your house for a get-together.” It’s a great way to get people to come over and look at the stuff in my garage.


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