AS A KINDERGARTNER, MY BOY Carl plucked a forgotten stuffed bluebird from the avalanche of plush toys in his closet and — for reasons still mysterious — named it “Mercy.”
Given the warlike tendencies of this bird in nature, the name seems an awkward fit.
But Mercy, whom he called “Tweety” upon occasion, joined us everywhere during that season of our life together in 2011. And the questions that cropped up whenever this birdie went missing threw me into spiritually deep water.
“I need Mercy!” our middle son, Andy, then 3, would say. “Where is Mercy? Is Mercy in our house? Does Mama have Mercy?”
When he located Carl’s bluebird, he tucked Mercy into his collar for the same reason some women hide Chihuahuas in their purses — for safekeeping, for constant companionship.
These days, the kids barely remember the bluebird we washed more than any other stuffy for all the places it went with them.
Yet, eventually we donated the Mercy bird for other children to enjoy when our three sons moved on to a pair of white Storm Trooper stuffies they named “Stormer” and “Gunnar” and a stuffed Spiderman dubbed “Spidey.”
Now, in 2017, I am the one wandering through this house silently calling for mercy and wishing it perched snugly on my shoulder just as the stuffed bluebird did for my kids.
Never have I sensed a more desperate need for the deeds surrounding this word — one I first learned in the Christian church — to square up against all of the finger pointing and taking one another to task so characteristic of the new administration, the most vocal members of the religious right, and some of us chatting at coffee shops and on social media.
In the midst of such a trollish climate, no wonder this nation struggles to unify and show mercy toward strangers while my relatives in tiny Sweden already know them.
Sweden has welcomed more of Syrian refugees, per capita, then any other nation in the world.
The cousins there in my generation already work in jobs where they meet them and treat them at the hospital or teach their children in the preschool.
Though I am not Catholic, I respect Pope Francis and the liberty he took to criticize the church — the very institution that claims mercy as its gift to the world — in a May 15, 2015, Vatican Radio address.
He described her as “sickened” by twin plagues — joylessness and fear.
“… And you enter into this community and the air is stale, because it is a sick community. Fear makes a community sick. The lack of courage makes a community sick. … when the Church is fearful and when the Church does not receive the joy of the Holy Spirit, the Church is sick, the communities are sick, the faithful are sick,” he preached.
The Pope likened people living without joy and courage as “caged animals” for their base self-preservation, for — by extension — their inability to express mercy.
Until Carl named his stuffed bluebird “Mercy,” that word lived way down on my playlist.
It seemed a highfalutin word, a churchy word I didn’t hear or say much in ordinary life.
But in 2017, it echoes around me again as if America were a canyon.
Mercy is an important word with work to do in me and in you, here and far away. …
“I need Mercy! Where is Mercy? Is Mercy in our house? Does Mama have Mercy?”
Pam Mellskog can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-746-0942.