This was written to share with my Co-workers. Seems right to share it here, as well.
As a father of two younger children I’ve found the perpetual argument over fairness between them to be maddening. I’m almost 8 years into their coexistence and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard “That’s not fair!!!”. It would seem that fairness and justice is a primal instinct. It’s at the core of how we perceive the world. Even if we are far from being objectively right and fair, our perception of fairness to us can override our senses and drive us beyond reason.
Over the last 6 months at Roof Above I’ve had a series of encounters with a neighbor who seemed to see me as a target to vent his frustration. It was startling at first. He would see me walking through campus and begin to yell all kinds of creative vulgarities at me. Almost every time I wanted to approach him and ask him his name and help him understand that I was not his enemy, but the intensity of the moments seemed to dictate that I avoid any direct communication. Then on a Monday morning he caught me as I was getting out of my car and yelled at me the typical vulgarities. Interestingly, that day it affected me a little more than usual. I did my best to ignore it and walked on but to both of our surprises we ran across each other again about an hour later, on a different campus. For whatever reason he approached me quietly and to my surprise he apologized to me. We talked, I got to learn his name and we exchanged some stories. We’ve been cordial ever since. My favorite moment of all these interactions was when he saw me walking one day and he said “It’s a miracle! I’m not yelling at you (while laughing).”
During my time here thus far these brief exchanges with my new friend have meant the most to me. Even though they didn’t come easy, I believe they are evidence of mercy which broke the cycle of normality. Mercyshort circuits the tit for tat instincts that we all have. Mercy is not fair.
One definition of mercy according to Webster is “compassionate treatment of those in distress” The origin of the word mercy is from Medieval Latin word “merced” or “merces” which means, price paid, wages, (from merc-, merx) This is also where we get the word merchandise.
In other words, treating others as if the price has been paid. Whatever kind of action or reaction they come at us with, we’ve already considered it and have paid the price. This is why we’re here. I see it on such a consistent basis from all of you on all of our campuses. I could not be more proud to be called your peer. Thank you for showing me how to carry a “full account” for my neighbors and my coworkers. Let’s get good at this and spread it around.
This piece is dedicated to the memory of Jordan Neely. May we do better. Much better.