Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remembering Dignity When Showing Mercy

"this Lent I need to incorporate remembering the dignity of the person as I attempt to grow in mercy." That is more or less how I ended yesterday's post. (And how cool is that that I can quote myself?) I spent many moments yesterday envisioning what that would look like. The face that kept coming to my mind is my cousin's. We will call her Lavergne. That is not her name. I just like the name Lavergne. Okay, seriously, she hates attention, and if she reads my blog, she will hate seeing her own name. If she reads my blog with the fake name, she will just end up wondering why I never introduced me to a cousin she has so much in common with.
My cousin "Lavergne" is so shy, she couldn't take pictures at her own sister's baby shower. She was afraid people would be looking at her. She also had that fear when she stood up at people's weddings, but I was able to convince her that people stare at the bride, not the bridesmaids. Don't pat me on the back. I suspect that is why she never got married to her boyfriend of a couple of decades. She can't reconcile herself to a wedding where people will stare at her, or disappoint a family who is expecting a big wedding.
So, why do I picture her face as the picture of mercy and dignity? Well, it is hard to explain. It is not as if she was our own little Mother Theresa. St. Francis maybe. She loves animals. She wouldn't let her boyfriend, Josh (another fake name, yes) turn on the air conditioning when birds built a nest on it. She didn't want the baby birdies disturbed. He tried to convince her to let him move the nest. She was worried that mamma birdie wouldn't find them, or that a cat would get them. So, they suffered. It was a hot summer. Not Texas hot. Just hot for us. She feeds the squirrels. She feeds the birds. She goes to the park to feed God's little creatures.
And that, my friends, is where mercy and dignity come in. You see, while being delivery girl to tweety and sweety, she made some new human friends. These human friends are the homeless men who live in the park. She just made friends with them, which is weird to me, because she is so shy, and afraid of everyone. She can't ride a bus, for fear of strangers, but she can talk to homeless men in the park. Her logic is that they aren't strangers. She sees them everyday when she feeds the birds. Except now, she may bring them a sandwich, coffee, or a blanket. They have conversations. They may mention being cold. Voila! She gets them a blanket. They mention having their blanket stolen. Voila! She gets another blanket. (And when she was telling me about it, she felt as sorry for the guy who had to steel a blanket as she did for her friend who had it stolen). They may mention not being able to find something to eat. Voila! She gets them something. They may mention a need for socks, get the picture.
Now, it is true that this help isn't exactly getting them off the street. But if everyone who walked through that park, or sat to watch the squirrels chase each other, talked to these men instead of avoiding their eyes, what then?
Not one of us has to save anyone. Christ already did that. But if all of us treated these men as men instead of as if they were invisible, together we would make a difference. And we could do it with dignity, because we would do it out of love and friendship. Not for anything else.
I love you, "Lavergne". I didn't really think I would ever see you as a role model when I grabbed the camera from you at your sister's baby shower and took the pictures while you were busy being shy, but I do. You do more for those homeless men with one conversation and a pair of socks than any of your relations do writing a check. I am proud to be your cousin. If you are reading my blog post today, come on and claim me with your real name in the comment section. I am proud of you and would love to really share you, name and all, with my cyber friends.

Today isn't just any Wednesday. It is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent. Apostleshipofprayer has a very good video about Ash Wednesday and Lent.

P.S. I know I said I would be off the internet on Wednesdays, but I wanted to share this. Besides, I used my fantastical preposting (or is it postposting) skills.


Michelle said...

Hi Helen,
Great lady your cousin Lavergne is!!!

I am no where near great like that!!!

I'm just saying~~~

Helen said...

Neither am I. It comes so naturally to her. Or at least it seems to.

pip said...

just saw this today...

"Lavergne", you are an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing your cousin's silent witnessing, Helen