The quality of mercy is about opening the heart to go one step beyond compassion and engage in actions and behaviors which affirm life and welcome another person, a people or culture into the human family or which serve to protect and preserve one of the Earth’s many living systems.
Mercy is compassion in action.
We tend to think of mercy as a character trait possessed by the weak or, at the very least, by those who are ungrounded in reality. The truth of the matter is that mercy is a complex quality involving, as a baseline, forgiveness, charity and compassion. Mercy requires a rare maturity of Spirit and strength of muscular character to exercise in its fullness.
When mercy is in bloom, its flower indicates we have been through the frozen hell of spiritual isolation, until we asked for the fires of purification to comfort and warm us. And, in that warming, all that held us apart from everything that lives, breathes and exists was burned up in its totality, leaving us to stand naked and aware that there is no separateness and that each of us has a role to play which is far greater than we could ever have envisioned for ourselves.
Sitting across from the banker, he chats easily with me while taking down some new contact information. The subject of dogs comes up.
We talk about dog adoption as a major commitment. Living with a dog is like having a perennially inquisitive child who is a lot of fun–an instant party really–and who is also capable of some serious mischief (read: potential object destruction).
“I had a friend who lost a dog recently,” the banker continues. “She’d had the dog for fifteen years and, after the dog’s passing, vowed she would never get another dog because the pain of losing the first was too great.” The banker pauses here looking to me for a response.
I cannot think of anything appropriate to say, so I refrain from speaking.
“Is that your experience?” he asks me more directly. The subject of our recently losing a dog had come up.
“No…,” I work on collecting my thoughts. “I think of relationships in terms of refuge. Consider how many dogs one person is capable of granting refuge to in the context of one human lifetime. Four? Five? Or more, if the person has the means, time and space. Think about how many animals we could save from being euthanized.”
“Yes, I hadn’t thought of it that way,” he responds with new consideration.
With our business concluded, I move out of his office, through the building and into the sunshine, thinking to myself, “People is your attatchment to your pain so great that you could not consider giving a fellow creature in need a place of refuge?” The walk home is long and sweet–though I would prefer to be sharing it with a four-legged friend.
*Notes on dog adoption. Animal adoption is a major commitment. On the plus side, dogs can grant us incredible companionship, devotion, loyalty and comfort with the added bonus of our having an “in-home personal trainer” in the form of a consistent walking companion. On the serious-considerations side, dogs present a major time and training commitment, with expenses for appropriate care, food, kenneling, extra space requirements, as well as cleaning obligations.