It was a rushed morning, too many things to do and fit into the time we had to do them. I was making my daughter’s lunch, throwing some stuff into the crock pot for dinner, and finally trying to get some breakfast together to take to the van and eat on the run. Somehow I did it, in barely the time I had available.
We gathered all the school stuff, and I headed to the stairs at the front door. My daughter was telling some story about her flamingo, I was paying attention to her while carrying two cups of coffee and a plate of English muffins… and I dumped the muffins all over the steps. The eggs started seeping into the carpet. The turkey was fusing itself to cat hair at an astounding rate. Multigrain goodness now became multidirt badness.
I did the only thing I could. I shouted, “CRAP!”
(Note: this is one of the few words which I have found to be on the list which can both express deep frustration and not put words in my daughter’s mouth which will get her in trouble at preschool. I am open to better ones, but I have a fondness for this one. I digress.)
The four-year-old could see it was a big deal. I looked from the splattered remnants of a wholesome breakfast to the innocent face at the bottom of the steps, looking up at the carnage. Then she looked up at me. She didn’t look at the breakfast. She looked at her angry papa, whose breakfast was ruined and who seemed really upset. Then she did the best thing a human being could do for another one: she showed mercy.
“It’s okay, Papa. I’m not mad. It’s okay.”
The breakfast was my own. It was not hers. She did not work the job and earn the money to buy the food. It was all mine, all my loss. Of course she wasn’t mad. Why should she be mad? She hadn’t been offended or hurt in anyway.
Sure, that’s the first thought we have. Then here’s another:
“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you.”
– Luke 10:5-6
I say she showed mercy because she didn’t see the mess. She saw me. She is an extremely empathetic child, and sometimes she just gets upset and cries in these situations. It’s what I expected, honestly… I was ready to nurse her tears as soon as I sopped up the mess.
It’s not what she chose. She chose what I wish I could, far more often. Just as Jesus instructed his disciples, we should lead with blessings on those we meet. We should go first, in love. We should heal wounds which aren’t even ours to deal with, because we are the speakers of peace into the world. It’s what makes us weird, and wonderfully different.
Even if the person doesn’t welcome our blessing, our joy, our love; it will come back to us and not be wasted. There is absolutely no reason to neglect the lead of love.
As we get older, we learn the intricacies of intermingling personalities. We learn that people make messes. We learn that it can be cleaned up, and then we learn cleaning methods. We learn that disaster is an inevitable part of life, and it can be overcome. We learn that carpet cleaner and Windex and paper towels are our friends, they make our possessions shiny again. We deal with our own feelings so that the world can feel whole, so that we can feel like everything is okay.
We forget there are people involved. We forget that other people aren’t healed just because we are. We’ve cleaned up the mess and we’ve moved on, and we’ve utterly failed our fellow human beings.
This is why we must become like little children, it takes us back to a simple, uncluttered time in our life. It’s more than innocence, it’s emptiness. Empty of the things we’ve placed before the clear, narrow path Jesus showed us.