Where Justice and Mercy Kiss

2210 2210_ () 2210 2210 Many thanks to those of you who have emailed me and left comments about my recent post, Dealing with the General Public (also: give me time to figure out how to link, have not gotten the hang of my new digs just yet).

There was a whole other section of that post that I failed to write, the part where I was going to ruminate on the tricky nature of dealing with strangers, and strange strangers at that.

It’s very complicated.

I understand the basics of Christian living and specifically how we, as Christians, are called to treat others. We are called to treat everyone with love and compassion. Just because someone is wearing raggedy clothes and missing teeth does not give me the right to be rude or callous, and certainly not mean. That man at the restaurant deserves the same love of Jesus that I would offer to the tidier restaurant worker, or even the well-heeled elderly crew that congregates there each day. I am called to share God’s love equally.

But here is where it gets complicated: I’m also called to protect my children and myself. I’m called to use my wit and intellect to make good choices about how I go about being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Further complicating matters is that I am over-the-top crazy protective of my infant daughter. It’s not that I would have operated out of lower standards if it had been one of the boys, but there is something about a sweet, dainty flower that inclines me to stay not only out of harm’s way, but out of harm’s umbra and penumbra too.

Which is what was going on in my brain the day this old gentleman got right up close to where I was feeding my daughter — where I had all my things sort of spread out on the table and not easily managed. There I sat and felt totally at the mercy of him and his desire to talk to me, and while I was polite at first, when I had engaged him for as long as I thought was loving and kind — well, he didn’t want to leave.

It was a scary situation for me, to be honest. I didn’t think the man was going to hurt me, but I also realized there was something going on with this man mentally that left me feeling like all bets are off. I was not dealing with an average person which meant I couldn’t necessarily predict expected behavior.

Now all of this is not to say that any person with special needs is dangerous. I don’t think this at all. But what I do know is that as a mother, my first and foremost responsibility is to protect my children. And in certain situations, that will require me erring on the side of caution. I am not going to become friends with this man because it just isn’t prudent, it’s unwise for me as a mother and as a woman.

I can still be the hands and feet of Jesus — I can smile and say hello. I can pray for this man and for others like him, that they would be shown the mercy and love of Jesus through those who come in contact with them.

And because I know I’m dealing with a person that does not seem to pick up on typical social cues, I will probably avoid this place, just to be safe. Not safe from him, but from a situation that would force me to act in a way that might possibly be hurtful to someone who probably is just looking for a chance to do a kind deed for someone else. 2210″



  1. Awesome. I totally agree!

  2. KatieButler says:

    Rachel, I have been in the same position with my infant daughter in the seat of the cart in a supermarket parking lot. Although we are called to be charitable to all people, I also think that the instinct to protect our children is given to us by God.

  3. Mom in GA says:

    I totally get it. I understand it is way more complicated than can be communicated through a short story written about it. I’m sorry if my earlier comment about ‘God putting people in our path for a reason’ was off base. It struck me as I was reading your original post so I felt called to make that comment. But, I KNEW that the situation is way too complicated for an outsider to make judgements on. And, after reading this follow up – I stand corrected. You have to use your best judgements taking into account body language, feelings, instincts, etc. Anyway, just wanted to let you know I feel bad for simplifying it to the fact of ‘God puts people in our lives.’ I’m sorry!!
    Thanks so much for all that you share with us!!!!

    • Thanks! No one said anything off base — it was actually a good reminder that there was more to the story that I needed to share. I just ran out of time yesterday when I sat down to write. The comments reminded me I needed to clarity!

  4. I agree. I think that as women, and mothers, we often are blessed with that “feeling” that things just aren’t right. It would be a whole different matter if there was a male present. I know that I feel differently if my husband is around. I become much more aware of the possibilities of danger or potential danger, the older I get. That being said, I think you did your duty.

  5. When we are alone with our babies, all bets are off. We have no idea the intentions of others and I firmly believe God gives us “that feeling” for a reason. It is to our peril to ignore it.

  6. Oh Rachel, I’m sorry too – didn’t mean to second-guess your judgment in the situation you were in. I may well have done the same ! We do need to follow our instincts in keeping our kids safe. In fact, I think this issue just set off the mama-bear in me, thinking immediately of my own child with disabilities and some unfortunate experiences we’ve had, dealing with the general public. We were just at swimming lessons, and 2 other girls were coming toward us. One said to the other, “Oh gross!” in reference to my little girl, and they moved as far away as they could. No parent there to offer guidance. On the other hand, we also just started baseball in an adapted league, and whole “regular” little league teams volunteer to be 1:1 “buddies” for the handicapped children. They come away with such greater understanding and empathy! Thank goodness for the strides in early intervention and inclusion in the last 25 years or so.
    By the way, this child is also my girl after 5 boys in a row! Her birth story is at http://www.prenatalpartnersforlife.org/Stories/StoriesCDCJanine.htm

    • I am so sorry to hear about how you and your daughter have been treated. I really do appreciate the reminder to be kind (and to train my children to be kind as well!).

      This situation is totally different though still a good reminder of the importance of being loving and merciful. Thank you.

    • Kate,

      I just followed your link — Janine is beautiful. I hope God is continuing to pour out blessings upon your family — what a tremendous gift she surely is to you all. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Ecce Quam Bonam says:

    I ABSOLUTELY agree with Nikki. My tiny sweet daughter and I once abandoned our meal and a few containers in a similar situation.

  8. Rachel- I totally understand where you are coming from and how even though you’ve done the right thing your heart might still feel conflicted.

    About a year ago an elderly neighbor man started yelling and swearing at me about something I didn’t do. I kept apologizing (for nothing!) and crying and trying to make him understand. But nothing worked. It was clear the man was either under a lot of stress or his mind wasn’t all there. Afterward I was a puddle and just kept wanting to make it right. It was my husband, the saner one of us, who calmly told me that sometimes the right thing to do is to do nothing and stay away. I prayed for this man a lot. A few months ago I learned of his death. Now I pray that he has finally found peace.

    Great post and great food for thought!

  9. yup, I totally agree. The Bible says “Love your neighbor…” Well, our “neighbor” means our kids, too!

  10. augh….sorry about my earlier comment…..obviously safety first!!

  11. I was travelling alone with my 5 kids and some elderly man started talking to me about his grandchildren – meanwhile I was NURSING a baby! However, in this case it really seemed like he was just lonely, so I sat there for quite a while letting him chat to my kids and even talk to me about how his wife nursed their children, all the while in complete dread that I was going to expose myself. Funny but nerve racking!

  12. Amy Corley says:

    Hi Rachel – I appreciate this post so much! I have been in similar circumstances myself and have felt the tug of war inside between the desire to be charitable and kind and the feelings of vulnerability that such encounters bring. I have had countless experiences in parking lots where I have been strapping in small children and have been approached by strangers asking for money. Those are definitely challenging situations!