The Lord is kind and merciful. Psalm 103
Merciful is not a word that I either use or hear often. The word kind, on the other hand, is much more common. “You are so kind” and “That was such a kind thing to do” are two familiar phrases.
One of the good things about having a dog is that she has helped me get to know my neighbors. On our daily walks, we often meet up with people who happen to be outside.
That is how I met Audrey, a woman who lives a few blocks away and is usually sitting on her back porch in the mornings. She is an animal lover who tends to stray cats, and she took an instant liking to my dog (who took an instant disliking to her cats). On my way to the grocery store one day, I stopped at her house to ask if she wanted anything. “You are so kind,” she said.
I brushed aside her compliment; I thought I was just doing what anyone would do. But each time I stop and ask if she needs anything, she gushes about my kindness.
Perhaps random acts of kindness are not as common as I imagine.
Just before Christmas, I came out of a store and noticed a note on the windshield of my car. The note explained that the wind had blown open the door of the car parked next to me and it had smashed into my car. The owner left her name and number. There was a mark on my door, but I am not one who would be too concerned about the looks of a car—I care more about its ability to get me where I am going. I called the woman, thanked her for her note and assured her my car was fine. Her voice caught as she thanked me. “You are so kind,” she said, her words full of emotion.
I try to be aware of opportunities to perform acts of kindness. Opening doors, paying the toll for the car behind me and letting someone go ahead in line are all easy to do. But, sometimes acts of kindness call for more courage.
I remember during Mass one day, the priest’s shoelace had become untied and when he bent over to tie it, he had difficulty keeping his balance. I thought of going over to help, but I feared he might shoo me away and I would be embarrassed. We all watched him struggle with his shoelace and no one went to his aid. I was then embarrassed by my timidity and trepidation, and I vowed to be more courageous.
I’m not sure if this is exactly what Pope Francis had in mind when he proclaimed a Year of Mercy, but for my part, I pledge to do at least one random act of kindness every day as my little way to make the year more merciful.