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Lord Have Mercy by Sal Moriarty

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that have shewed no mercy. James 2:13 (KJV)

I used to be a store manager for a large electronics chain. You've shopped there.

It was Black Friday in Little Rock, Arkansas. I, and another manager, were standing near the checkouts, ensuring there were plenty of cashiers and customer flow was smooth. At some point, I became aware of a ruckus near one of the registers. I walked over and found two women, mid-fifties I'd guess, screaming bloody murder. One of the women, probably someone's grandmother, was accusing the other woman (probably someone's grandmother, also) of breaking in line.

The short version is I took the woman making the accusation aside, explained I could not force the other woman to go back in line as I had not witnessed the offense. I offered a small discount on one of her items for the trouble. She said that would be fine, and I excused myself.

I had scarcely returned to my post, when there was yet another commotion. I returned to see the same two women going at it again (did I mention they were probably grandmothers?). It goes without saying, my frustration level was high, on this, the most unholy day of the year.

I am not a religious person, but I am not above invoking a deity if it helps me get stuff done. As I approached the ladies, they turned their gaze toward me.

“Ladies,” I said. “Christmas! You know, birth of Christ!”

"I don't want to hear that bull____!” one of the women replied.

In a strange way, I was successful in making peace as we had stumbled upon a sentiment in which both women could agree. I hated the holidays long before that event, but my hatred was set in stone that day in Little Rock (pun intended).

When I am in a weakened state or low on liquor, I sometimes wonder why we treat each other so shabbily. Is it simply a basic truth that a great-many humans are just rotten? Probably. Is there anything we can do to change that fact? Probably not.

That said, indulge me. We don't have to re-invent the wheel here. Let's think. Is there an uncomplicated, noble philosophy we might live by and employ in the moments before we extend a middle finger out the car window? A basic ethos all reasonable, fair-minded people – of all religions or no religion – could get on board with; an ethos that might benefit us all.

How about this one? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Now we're cooking. It's from a religious text, but membership in a particular religion is not required in order to follow this simple principle. Right? So, I say, let's give it a try. It's never been done in any significant way. We can branch out later if successful or try something else if it proves too ambitious.

What else? Maybe we can remind ourselves we have no idea, for the most part, what is going on in the heads of those occupying the spaces around us. Is that man who cut me off in in traffic simply an anti-social nitwit? Possibly. Could it be he just wasn't paying attention, loaded down by the same stress and pressure that weighs us down? Likely. Is it also plausible he recently received a devastating medical diagnosis? Maybe not even for himself, but his most treasured Love.

Did the woman at the red light, who just sat there through green, do it on purpose? Just to torque me off ? Maybe. Could it be she was just worn out and inattentive from working two jobs? Certainly. Is it believable she's just heartbroken, a recent widow, and simply lost in thought. Indeed.

Maybe, the teen-age clerk at the supermarket – the one who never smiles or says thank you – is enveloped in a morass of mental illness so prevalent now days. How horrific it must be not to be able to describe exactly what's troubling you, but be mercilessly troubled, nonetheless. It's easy to be judgmental because, you know, she's young. It's a past-time as old as humanity itself, but she's just living in the world we handed down to her.  At least the world handed down to me contained a minimum of opioids and nothing in the way of social media.

There are so many among us whose lives are nothing more than irrevocable pain. Every day, all day. They move through the world doing what has to be done but are relentlessly haunted by what the late Matthew Perry called “the big terrible thing”. For him, it was addiction, but it could be anything. Do such people make up a minority?  Perhaps, but I'm not convinced.

John Donne famously said no man is an island, but he was wrong. Everyone is an island. Some face problems for which there are no solutions, and there never will be. What must that be like?

So, can we as a collective (a very unpopular word to many in 21st century America) begin to treat others in a more, dare I say, Christian manner? Give the benefit of the doubt to our fellow Americans?

It's a no-brainer. There's not a snowball's chance in you-know-where.

Having said that, I hope – for all my innumerable faults – I will not be the jerk you encounter at Walmart, arguing over a parking space with a person who, unbeknownst to me, just found out his or her Beloved has cancer.   


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