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Thursday, February 15, 2007

More on mercy

There are moments when even I don't have the right words to say. Right now, all I can think of are a bunch of bad words. A friend of mine was in tears today because of how a person showed her so little mercy.

She was on her way to get a manicure-a treat someone had given her because she was so stressed out. The place is less than a mile from her house, and her colicky baby was screaming. I've heard this kid cry, and I seriously have no idea how she does it. However, the one thing that calms him is to rock his seat while riding in a car. Since hubby wasn't able to be with her, she had the kid in the front seat. YES, I know you're not supposed to do that. But the poor woman was at her wits' end.

Some guy saw this, chased her down with his car, made her pull over, and berated her for "child abuse." WORSE, he called the police and pinned her car in so she couldn't go anywhere until the police got there. The guy made all sorts of nasty threats, and pretty much told her he was going to do whatever he could to make sure she got what she deserved for being such a bad mom. The police gave her a ticket for the violation, and so far she hasn't had social services call, but she's now terrified that this guy is going to get them to take away her kids.

I am furious. Like I said, having the kid up front wasn't the best choice in the world. But come on, as parents, we have all made some decisions that weren't the best. Sometimes, even when we think we're doing the best thing for our kids, it ends up being the wrong thing.

This stranger, who knew nothing about her, chose to show no mercy. He ignored her tears, ignored the wails of the colicky baby, and didn't bother to talk to her. Didn't bother to find out why she'd do such a thing. He was so intent on proving to her what a bad mom she was that he succeeded.

My friend is a great mom. I see all the things she does with and for her kids. She loves her kids. I've watched her sacrifice and give all for the sake of those kids. Yet this guy, who thought he was doing the world a favor by saving a kid from a bad mom, knew none of these things.

I hate the grocery store. It brings out the worst in parents and kids. I've gotten many a stern look and the occasional lecture because someone didn't like what I was doing to parent my kids. I was convinced one woman was going to call social services on me because I chose to "jerk my child by the arm" rather than let her run into oncoming traffic. I've also watched other parents yell at their kids, spank them, and do a lot of things I personally thought was out of line. But I know what it feels like to be berated when you are doing the very best you can and someone who knows nothing of the situation thinks they can step in and "correct" it.

A while back, there were commercials on the tv about a mom screaming at her kids, so another mom stepped up and asked her to take a time out and back away. The point of the commercial was that we should help prevent child abuse. Having dealt with child abuse cases, I'd like to suggest that while some of the behavior on the part of the parents isn't exemplary, those aren't the parents you should be worried about. It's the ones with kids who meekly sit in the cart, afraid to say or do anything. They're too afraid of their parents to misbehave. (And no, not all well-behaved kids are abused).

But I think sometimes, we're so caught up in trying to stop a problem, we forget about what it means to be human. We forget about being merciful. We forget that these are real people whose lives we are impacting. And not always in the good way we think we're doing. Is there a way we can show the other person a kindness without hurting them? Are we acting out of love? Or is it anger, or fear, or disgust?

Or maybe in a moment of self-righteousness, we think that we're superior to that other person because we would "never" do that. And maybe we would never do "that". But there are a lot of things we would do that are just as bad, or even worse. Two verses come to mind-"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," and "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?".

Obviously, people need to be punished for their infractions. But I wonder how different this world would look, if we would showed a little mercy to others. What if, when we saw the frazzled mother with her screaming kids, we didn't give her that judgmental stare? What if, instead of muttering under our breath about what a bad mom she is, we said something to encourage her? What if, rather than watching her struggle to keep her kids under control while juggling groceries and car keys, we asked if we could help carry some of the groceries? Or offered to push the cart? What would happen if we approached someone like my friend, and rather than providing a solution that spoke of judgement, we asked if there was anything we could do to help?

In talking with the moms in our group today about this and other unrelated things, one of the themes that kept coming up is how alone many moms feel. Even though we're all married (I can't imagine doing this without a husband), we all feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. Our husbands are great, but they can barely keep our kiddos alive, let alone tackle the other multitude of things on our plate. It is overwhelming. Some days, we want to sit and cry because there is so much to do and we only have two hands and twenty four hours in which to do it. I've told my husband that the thing I need most from him to feel loved is for him to ask, "What do you need?" and when I answer, to do it-no arguing, no whining, no resentful looks, but to have an attitude of, "this is what my wife needs from me, and because I love her, I'm going to give it my very best effort." If I got that, I would feel like the most treasured woman on the planet.

I don't say that to condemn my husband in any way. He has a lot of other fine qualities and I love him. But I think sometimes, when we look at being merciful to others, we do what WE think is best, and don't bother to approach it from the other person's point of view. To see what they really need, and what would help fix the situation rather than make it worse. To truly have mercy, I think we also need compassion, that understanding of who the other person is and the situation they're in.

And who knows, maybe the mean dude lost a child in an accident and feels compelled to prevent another from dying or something. I don't know. I'm just so heartbroken over how this poor woman is feeling now because of some awful, cruel things that a person who didn't bother taking the time to see her as a human said.

I'm rambling. It's late. I'm exhausted.


Jana said...

Holy wow! Not only was the man unmerciful but he could have been dangerous! I'd have talked to the police about HIM while they were there. Simply by chasing her down and forcing her to pull over, he posed more threat to the child's safety than the kid being in the frontseat. That poor woman. How terrorized she must have been.

As for grocery stores and parents...man. I don't have kids but I know enough to know that handling a kid in any public situation is often times an experiment in torture...for the PARENT! lol About the only time I glare at a parent is if I hear them cussing at their kids. Nothing fires me up more than to hear a child being cussed at.

At anyrate, I hope your friend is okay and this jerk leaves him alone. Nothing gives a person the right treat someone else so callously! Many prayers aimed her way. (And his. Begrudgingly. But I'll pray for him, too. hehehe)

Jana said...

I meant her. Leaves "her" alone. Sheesh!