The main focus of each day lingered mostly around two questions. “What are we having for lunch?” and “What are we going to play out at recess?” Those were the big ticket items in the brain of a fourth-grader at a Catholic grade school.
I was a good student. I paid the strictest of attention and sat up very straight at my desk. The kind of desk with the built-in underneath drawer, which I kept very neat and orderly. I answered questions when I was called upon. But in the back of my mind, the big burner was the levity of it all.
As I think back upon those early years of my life, I mostly didn’t understand the world. I didn’t really have to. My life was pretty charmed. My parents were kind and loving. We had an old, but sturdy house. We never knew true hunger. We went to school. To Mass. We did our chores, and played at the rest.
Occasionally, I considered loftier things. How long is God’s beard? And what the heck do Nuns wear under their habits? Why does water rain down out of clouds, but it doesn’t spill up to the clouds, out of oceans, and lakes, and ponds? Why do spiders bite? Those kinds of things.
There were a few moments when I wondered about the troubled-world out there. I would be at a friend’s house, and their Dad would be sitting in a chair, drinking one beer after the next. I wondered why sometimes that Dad-Man would take off his belt, and hit the holy heck out of my friend. I never stuck around to see much. As soon as his anger started to show, I would hightail it out of there. Back to the safety of my home. My home.
I’ve been looking back to those years in that school. Every day, the name blazoned on the front, for all to see. Our Lady of Mercy Grade School, 545 Odlin Ave., Dayton, Ohio. That brown wooden sign with the yellow lettering. Fresh in my mind like it was yesterday.
But it is the name. “Our Lady of Mercy.” We all knew the “Lady” as Mother Mary. The Virgin Mary. You know, Mother of Jesus. Mother of God too, which was always a little weird for me to try and sort out. Not just the Virgin thing, but the whole-double-Mother-thing. And then that same Mary was cousin to Elizabeth. Which was that Elizabeth, old, old, old Elizabeth, who somehow got pregnant too. And she ended up being the mother of John the Baptist who gets his head cut off in the end. Not only cut off, but put on a platter because of Dancing Salome’s request. Which was really her Mom’s request. That mean Herodias. But, I’m way off track. Dang it. Again.
I was taking about Our Lady of Mercy.
Mercy. That word.
Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Or. An occurrence that prevents suffering.
Another turn at me getting off track. It is no wonder all of our sports teams completely sucked at my grade school Mercy. Before every game, each team, no matter who — football, softball, kickball — would say the same cheer. “Our Lady of Mercy, Pray for Us.” Three times in a row. “Lady of Mercy! Pray for Us!” Dang it. We should have been asking for a big win. Not for mercy.
But back to that word. And this world.
Compassion shown to someone. Someone whom it is within one’s power to harm. It seems that asking for mercy has taken on the characteristic of weakness. But, if you ask me, it is a good thing to do. Asking for, and giving, mercy.
There are a lot of people in this world today with the power to do harm. A lot of power. In big places, and in every day places. Harm to our world. Harm to others. Sometimes, it is thoughtless harm. Other times, it is very intentional.
And then I start to wonder about those troubled-world thoughts again. The why’s and the how’s. The what’s. What. What, whatever can we do?
And then I wonder some more.
Somehow, someway, I wish there were more mercy in this troubled-world. Tender, tender mercy.
“Our Lady of Mercy. Pray for Us.” — Grade Schoolers, Dayton, Ohio, 1970
“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
“Love, Mercy, and Grace, sisters all, attend your wounds of silence and hope.”
― Aberjhani, The River of Winged Dreams