She sat in her pickup, the driver's side window down, hair blown back from her face. The first traces of tropical storm gusts stirred the air as the state anticipated the effects of Hurricane Florence. I noted a pink neon stripe zagged through the woman's dark bangs. The color reminded me of those frozen concoctions sold in gas station convenience stores, that stain one's tongue disturbing colors. I stood on the bank of the tidal creek where she had parked her truck. We made eye contact, waving simultaneously. The young woman smiled and nodded, then went back to her musing as did I, our brief connection a mercy as we awaited the storm's approach.
The woman's bright shot of pink in her hair, and her wide smile comforted me, and I began thinking of the concept of mercy as I walked. I remembered the encounter I had with my six-year-old granddaughter a few days prior. We'd been talking about how we enjoyed writing as a way to capture moments of our lives. She picked up her journal and said, "You know what I write in my journal is just for me to read." I responded, "I understand. My journal writing is the same--only for me." Then she said, "But I'll read you a page in mine." I said, "I'd like that very much." She began:
"One day I went with my mommy to visit a lady. When we got there, and I saw the lady, I realized she had a mustache. I really, really, really wanted to say something." Then my granddaughter looked up from reading and said, "I had to hold back my words. I wanted to say something so bad." She continued: "I decided not to say anything, though, because it could have hurt the lady's feelings. I didn't want to do that."
While on some level, the journal entry was funny, the story reflected a tenderness of heart as well. At six, my granddaughter had learned the art of mercy.
As I continued my walk, I was startled by a Great Blue Heron. I stopped and took several steps back. The bird was about four feet tall, its feathers the color of pewter, an orange beak. The lanky creature was crossing the road to another part of the tidal creek, its legs like black pipe cleaners, the steps deliberate and unrushed. There was something that arose in me--that caused me to want to give the bird all the space it needed to get to safety. While the heron appeared resolute and confident as it made its way to the other side, I knew the wild bird was vulnerable in the open. I watched until the bird made it safely to the other side, until its gray body became camouflaged in the grasses near the creek.
Sometimes I believe God does this for me. Steps back and offers me plenty of room when I take a risk, or when I'm in a vulnerable place in life. Watches me until I get to the other side, his merciful eye upon me.
The day is breathtaking really, the wind gusts feel refreshing. The sky almost seems filled with mirth, layers of clouds creating white wisps against a cerulean backdrop. The sun is warm. An onslaught of rain is coming, and the region faces uncertainty. Like children, hands atop each other before a big game, our community curates a unified spirit, practicing the art of mercy as we are vulnerable, out in the open.