Showing mercy is not optional

She came to them for diapers. A group of people from my mother’s church had driven to an impoverished Kentucky town, distributing diapers, clothes, basic necessities to those who had none. Some residents walked barefoot, unable to afford even one pair of shoes to cover their feet in the desperately cold Appalachian winter.

This mother needed diapers for her baby. I picture her walking barefoot, face dirtied, clothes ragged and ill-fitting, coming to ask for a package of diapers that I can buy at Walmart without a second thought. Does it hurt her pride? Is she sick at heart for not being able to care for her child? Or is she so worn from the sleepless nights and hunger and bruised feet that she doesn’t have the luxury of worrying about such things? Then she trudges home to a baby and who knows what else.

She is eleven years old.

It’s too easy for me to cry for this girl and then be thankful that she made it through her pregnancy alive. But that doesn’t mean I can relax once that crisis pregnancy is over. I can’t ignore that here are a mother and child who more than likely had no prenatal care. A child being raised by a mother who is still a child herself. A child—children—in abject poverty. 

It’s too easy to speculate: Where’s the father? Was it a family member? Why was she having sex at eleven years old? Was she raped or was it consensual? (Personally, I don’t think an eleven-year-old is capable of truly “consenting” to intercourse.)

It’s too easy to ignore. It’s foreign to my reality, and as they say, out of sight, out of mind.

People, we’ve got to do better than this. Someone needs to do something.

That someone is me.

That someone is you.

That something is caring. Loving. Showing mercy. Demonstrating that mercy in practical ways, ways that don’t depend on her cleaning up her messy life, meeting my standards of behavior, or being willing to get out of the cycle of poverty. Mercy continues even when it is spit back in my face.

Mercy acts when it sees a child raising a child. This may involve giving diapers. Or adopting a child born in horrible circumstances. Or moving to the area, identifying with those in need, and using my gifts and abilities to help break this cycle of poverty: teaching children their ABCs, helping people repair their houses, giving medical care for free. 

It’s not always easy to take action when I see poverty. It’s easier to wrinkle my nose at the dirt and squalor, and pretend I don’t see the desperation and hopelessness in another person’s eyes. But that’s not an option. This young child and her baby deserve better than my disdain.

They deserve love. They deserve mercy. They deserve hope.

And if it’s in my power to give it to them, then I need to do it.

Question: What do you do when you are confronted with a need?  


2 thoughts on “Showing mercy is not optional

  1. Part of the problem of working in helping professions is that you are privey to too many heartbreaking stories that defy belief. You have to harden yourself because if you don’t you will go crazy and burn out completely.

    The world is full of evil people and Satan marching about seeking those he can destroy.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder


    1. I’ve often wondered how people in helping professions deal with the heartbreaking stories they hear. It’s overwhelming to me to hear the little bits that I do, and I’ve had to focus my compassion on certain areas (sex trafficking victims, victims of rape, young women such as this one). But it’s hard. What worries me is the people who don’t even care about ONE issue; I don’t care what the issue is, necessarily, but the desire to ignore all the issues really does concern me.

      Blessings on you, too!


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