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Mercy on the Menu

I learned about mercy in the most unexpected way.... through working in a restaurant.

I was working my first job as a host and waiter.  The night was overwhelmingly busy, and the pace was relentless.  Every time people would leave, another flood would come to replace them. In the midst of all the chaos I was taking the orders of my assigned tables.  I was overwhelmed since I was relatively new at the job.  I took the orders to the best of my ability and submitted them to the kitchen.

 The scene in the kitchen was even more chaotic: pots were slamming, knives were grating against the heavily worn cutting tables, expletives were being thrown about in 3 languages. The only person who seemed to speak clearly in all of this confusion was the chef, who himself was being swept away by the tumult of the moment.  When my turn came I nervously submitted my order.  Much to my chagrin the chef angrily called me and instructed me to rewrite the entire order.  I obeyed, rewrote the order and hoped for the best.

I brought the order to my table, apologized for the wait and was relieved that the PTSD inducing stress might finally end.  Unfortunately it didn't. A couple of minutes later I was called back to my table.  One of the guests complained that her order was messed up.  I apologized and promised that I would fix the mistake. Inwardly I was terrified to reenter the bedlam of the kitchen.  As I was about to take the order back the customer gently pulled my arm and told me in the kindest tone that it was OK, that I didn't need to bring the order back.  She said that she didn't mind and encouraged me to take care of my other tables.  I was so relieved. I was so grateful for this magnanimous customer.

Shockingly as she left the table after finishing her meal the same customer did something that I would never forget...she gave me a huge tip, nearly double of what I expected since I didn't expect anything.

That moment taught me about the nature of mercy. Up to that point I had heard about from my many religious classes in grammar and high school.  But something profound occurred to me that night. Instead of hearing and reading about mercy I encountered it. There was a profound difference between hearing about mercy and actually experiencing it.

Mercy is God's greatest attribute. We are told numerous times in scripture that God is a God of mercy. We are even told later, specifically in the New Testament that God forgives 70 x 7 (which in Hebrew literally means infinity) and expects us to do the same.

Mercy is the balm that heals and brings comfort to the soul.  Mercy is totally unmerited, and undeserved; yet it is given freely and generously. It restores hope.  Mercy is encouraging, and eternally optimistic.

Let me end with a few cool quotes:

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plentiful in mercy." -Psalm 103:8

"A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just"  - Pope Francis

"Be merciful just as your Father is merciful" - Luke 6:36


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