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Tender Mercy
by Alexandria Pearl
Not For Sale
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It has been said that King David had a heart for the Lord, especially when he had shown kindness to the crippled grandson of Saul. In the twenty first century it is rare to find a heart so tender and full of compassion. As human beings, most of us tend to feel crippled; for some it is an emotional or physical crippling and for others it may be spiritual. I believe I was crippled emotionally, physically, and spiritually; until the day I met Linda.

Being the single mother of two small children was not easy. My son, only three months old, was placed on a breathing/heart apnea monitor due to complications at birth. At that time, my daughter was fourteen months and quite healthy, but yet a handful. Due to my son's special needs, I was unable to attend work and had to rely on state assistance.

A week or so before Christmas, I received a telephone call from a woman named Linda. The telephone was one luxury I had to afford because of my son's health problems. Linda introduced herself and said she was a member of a group called, "Hope Network," an organization that helps single mothers. She further explained that she too had a child utilizing the newly invented monitor. Hope Network notified her with my name and number because I too had a child on the monitor. She phoned me instantly. After a minute or two into our conversation she apologized and asked if she was bothering me. I replied no and told her I enjoyed her conversation. We talked for an hour or so; I was sad when she said her good-byes, but she promised to call again.

Linda kept her promise and called again the next day and then ritually every day until three days before Christmas. As I waited anxiously for her call, I watched the lights blink on our sparse Christmas tree while my children were asleep. I looked at the clock and realized Linda's phone call was late. My stomach began to knot and my palms were becoming sweaty. I truly looked forward to her phone calls; we had a strong bond even though we had never met in person. The phone rang at 5 p.m. and when I answered all I could hear were dogs barking and Christmas music playing. Suddenly, a child's cry pierced the phone and then the familiar voice of Linda spoke. She was in a hurry and late for a Christmas party. She apologized, but said she couldn't speak long and would have to hang up as soon as her husband came home. We spoke for two shorts minutes before I heard a door slam and a strong male voice announce that it was departure time for the family. Linda wished me a Merry Christmas and then hung up the phone. My heart hurt as I hung up the telephone receiver in silence. The only noise in my apartment was that of my son's apnea monitor recording his breathing.

A quick shrill sound startled me and for a moment I thought it was my son's breathing setting off the alarm; but as I looked at my child he was sleeping and his breathing wasn?t labored. I then realized it was the phone and quickly picked up the receiver. I was startled when I heard Linda?s voice say hello. She spoke quickly and asked me to come to her house on Christmas Eve. Before I answered, she said that she insisted and if I did not have a ride she'd provide one. A giant smile graced my face; I wasn't used to someone being so kind to me.
Two days later I stood at Linda?s front door with a monitor and my two small children. As I rang the doorbell, I knew this was the right house. Every inch of her yard was covered with Christmas decorations from Santa and Rudolph to Jesus in a manger.

A tall skinny blonde girl answered the door. As she opened the door to let me in I was greeted by a cluster of blue eyed blonde haired children, a dog that barked nonstop, and a cat that wanted to be noticed. I heard Linda's voice before I saw her. Like her children, Linda was blue eyed and naturally blonde. My dark eyed and haired half-Mediterranean children contrasted to this German and Polish family. My daughter was directed to the couch where it appeared a Christmas show was starting on the television. My son and I were ushered into the kitchen where the aroma of brownies and popcorn tantalized my senses. Linda sat me down at a huge oak table while she tenderly plucked my son from my arms. I didn't let many people hold my son due to his condition but Linda did it with such grace and kindness that I knew he'd be well protected. While Linda was talking and cuddling my son it gave me a chance to look around for her child on a monitor. I assumed he was an infant as well but was surprised when I saw a child in green and white ninja turtle pajamas walking and clutching two ninja turtles in one hand and a brownie in the other. It was evident this was not his first brownie as he had a chocolate mustache and chocolate stains all over his shirt and face. I couldn't help but notice the wire leads that protruded from his pajama shirt and the monitor belt on his chest.

I noticed a crucifix and a picture of Mother Mary on the wall; it was evident Linda was Catholic. I wasn't sure what she would think of me since I was raised a Baptist. Catholics didn't know much about hellfire and brimstone and I sure did not know much about Catholicism. I thought maybe we wouldn't breach the topic of religion, but I was wrong. After my son was fed and sleeping comfortably and my daughter was quietly munching on brownies and watching a Christmas movie, Linda handed me a cup of delicious hot coffee and a plate full of Christmas cookies. She waited until I took several drinks of coffee and had finished at least one cookie before she started talking about Jesus. I nodded my head politely but wondered what she knew about Jesus; Catholics prayed to Mary, I thought.

Linda already knew I was a Christian but never asked my denomination. I held my breath waiting for her to convert me to Catholicism or at least tell me what was wrong with being Baptist. She never did. Instead she talked about a Jesus that I never knew existed. Being raised Baptist and realizing my salvation hung on my confessed sins and my baptism of the Holy Spirit; I was always asking and checking with God about my salvation. I knew God knew of my sins and by no means was I a saint. It was easy for me to be a sinner but the saint part was very difficult. I listened in silence as she spoke about the love and tenderness of Jesus. Jesus, she said, loved me in spite of my sins and that His love and compassion was a gift that He freely gave to me.
Linda grabbed me by the hand and looked me in the eyes as she spoke. "Jesus loves you and your children regardless of your past. You don't have to earn His love; He had already given it to you a long time ago. Jesus doesn't delight in judgment but rather mercy and grace."

"Oh," I said as I stirred my coffee trying to digest her words.

"Jesus gave us His most perfect gift when He died on the cross and took away our sin, but He presented a more precious gift when He gave us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was to live inside us and always be with us even when we were afraid and alone. And the best part of this wonderful gift is that you do not have to earn it or do mighty deeds in his name to receive it, He just graciously gives it to you when you seek His face."

Linda stopped talking and searched my face for an expression; I put my head down. She gently lifted my chin with her hand as tears poured down my face. "I want to know this Jesus, I want my children to know Him." I tried not to cry but the tears would not stop.

Linda put her arms around me and hugged me while she whispered. "Jesus loves you in spite of your mistakes. We all carry dark secrets and our hearts are stained with pain and sins. Jesus is waiting at your door beckoning you to let Him in."

As the evening came to an end, Linda presented me with many presents and two handmade quilts. Little did she know, her words in simple act of kindness would span continents.

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