Understanding Mercy

Mercy has an unusual name. She knows that both of her brothers have names that belong to people in the Bible. Hers has been a bit more difficult to explain, and while I have tried on more than one occasion, it wasn’t until she watched the Veggie Tales’ movie, Jonah, recently that she really grasped a definition of “mercy”.

They talk in the movie about mercy as giving somebody something that they do not deserve, and they use the phrase “to have mercy on someone”. After watching the movie last week, Mercy was quite proud to explain to me what her name meant, and I have overheard her say on more than one occasion since that she has the “special-ist” name.

The day after she had watched the film, Doug and I were preparing to leave for a four-day trip to Seattle. We were taking Elijah with us, but leaving Mercy and Aaron with two of their favorite people for the long weekend. Aaron was distraught about my leaving, and he repeatedly broke into very genuine tears and pleaded with me not to go. It was a hard day for my little man, and there was little I could do to help him feel better.

One of the kids’ favorite things to do in our apartment is race to the front living room window that opens right as anyone leaves our place so that they can press their face to the window and yell goodbye, over and over again, and wave. So on this day when Aaron was especially fragile, someone left our apartment and Mercy beat Aaron to the spot at the window, and launched into the full goodbye routine. Well, Aaron simply could not endure the disappointment and collapsed in a crying heap on the living room floor because Mercy had beat him to the window.

Doug and I tend to be very careful about not rewarding “fits” as we call them. We always encourage the kids to express their emotions and tell us what frustrates them or makes them mad, but throwing a tantrum does not accomplish much in our house. As we like to say (to ourselves, not to the kiddos), we do not negotiate with terrorists.

Mercy turned and saw her brother throwing his fit on the floor, and I could tell she felt compassion for him. I told her that, while Aaron’s behavior certainly did not merit her giving him a place at the window, she could choose to let him stand in her spot because he was having such a hard day and it would make him feel happy: she could give him what he did not deserve.

Mercy looked at me, then down at her red-faced little brother and took a step back from the open window. “Aaron…you can have the window, Aaron,” she said, gently.

As she moved away and Aaron scrambled to take her place, she looked up at me with those giant blue eyes: “Mommy, I had my name on Aaron.”

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