By Nina Hill, FC 18 Costa Rica
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7
As this Jubilee Year of Mercy draws to a close, mercy really needs no introduction; it simply needs to be practiced. These past three weeks in Costa Rica have taught me immeasurably about the merciful nature of God, and the call we all have to be merciful. I have been working in the children’s hospital at Manos Abiertas, a home for people with severe disabilities. The Hermanas (Sisters), staff, and supporters of Manos are steeped in a culture of mercy and love which allows them to gracefully dance through the tough and the tender steps of their days.
Of the many faces of mercy, I regularly see two throughout the day: the tough and the tender.
Often the tough… Seeing families and children unglued because of poverty and disabilities is tough. Learning a new language and new tasks in a new language is tough. Coaxing tiny feet into tiny shoes is tough. Being far from my friends, family, and home is tough. Loving children who were deemed unlovable and unable to be cared for by their families is tough.
…But always the tender. Holding a pint-sized hand is tender. Stopping to talk to the adult residents on my way to lunch is tender. Watching the Hermanas dance and sing with the kids is tender. Sitting at the bus stop talking to my new friends is tender. Sharing a meal and swapping stories with my community is tender.
Everywhere we go there is brokenness, sorrow, grief, and suffering, but it is always partnered with beauty, joy, gentleness, and hope. That is in many ways the cross; it’s easy for us to feel the roughness of the wood, to cave under the weight of sin, and wallow in the brokenness of a world that would kill its own creator, but it is necessary to share in the joy of a heart freed from injustice, to celebrate the beauty of realizing human dignity, and to offer our hands and our hearts to help heal the world with the mercy of God.
Learning the steps to this new dance is difficult, and it often feels like as soon as I get the hang of the steps, everything changes and I am left doing the awkward “sway and snap” until I figure out the new steps, but every morning, whether I’m ready to dance or not, God coaxes my feet into my shoes, holds my hand, and draws me back in to the reel and quietly asks “bailarias conmigo?”.