Some days I feel like I'm nothing but contradictions.
I am selfish.
I want to live with open hands.
I am envious.
I want to be at peace with where I am.
I am judgmental.
I want to see the best in people.
I am petty.
I want to exercise patience and grace.
Blessed are the merciful.
And still I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
I see the pictures going around, the tiny body washed up on the beach, the hundreds of faces crammed into barely sea-worthy boats like so much cargo and yet valued less than even the most careless merchant would treat his cargo, with a desire to see it reach its destination whole, undamaged. I see the faces and read their stories, stories of despair and risking death because death seems the more palatable option. I read heartfelt pleas and my soul wants to reach out and help. And then I think "Yes, it's easy to want to help this one. But what about when one becomes one hundred and then one thousand and then one hundred thousand?" What then?
Am I willing to give up every illusion of security that I have to place hope into the heart of a refugee?
Am I willing to concede that inviting the widow, the orphan and the immigrant into my life may just not always be comfortable? Am I willing to let it involve risk?
Risk of sharing our nation and our economic fortune?
Risk of embracing the presence of other cultures, because when someone flees from the wasteland that was their home, do we get to insist that they give up every aspect that ties them to the memory of a place they still must love?
Risk of the awkwardness of learning how to communicate with someone from a vastly different background, language, or religion?
I know that there are people who run towards mercy. People who cannot stop their tears from flowing or their hearts from breaking for the marginalized, the stranger, the broken. People who mobilize and act before the story even breaks.
I want to be a person who runs towards mercy, but I must confess that at best I am a person who stumbles towards it. Counting the cost with each step I take. So overwhelmed at the vast sea of broken lives that it becomes almost easier to ignore them all than to choose just one. Confused by the voices who argue against mercy. Uncertain about 'best practices' and the fiscal responsibility of charitable organizations and misguided good intentions and all of the other things that can make the good we thought we were doing less than good.
I can only stumble towards mercy with empty hands. Trusting that somehow even hands that feel empty will hold enough to bind up the broken pieces of this crazy, stupid, hurting world.