The man before me commanded us to listen. He just wanted to be heard. He blurted out his story in waves of sobs and anger, even hatred. Volumes of outrage rose and fell, permeating the air. He needed counseling I thought. He needed a Christ-like attitude, I thought. He needed to forgive the torrent of people who had hated him and for whom he now returned the same. Mostly, he needed what he said he needed: ‘Someone to listen’. His story had to be absorbed by mercy, not judgment.
His narrative jumped from an early morning beating by a man with a baseball bat. The wounds on his head proved his case. His left arm was in a cast. The man before us had been brutally beaten and left bloody and naked on the side of the road in the wee hours of the morning. Half conscience and cold, he fought consciousness. Vehicle after vehicle passed him. Some even honked at him. He was an embarrassment to the roadway patrons. Telling his story, he grew more and more bitter and broken before us as he relived his near-death experience. His vision had blurred that night from the blood freely flowing from his head wounds. That’s where the police found him. They did their duty. They wanted to know his name. They asked him questions to judge his mental condition. He forced out answers.
His story demanded explanations. It was full of holes. He had not only been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he had also been wrong as well as having been wronged. When you know there must be another side of the story, it’s hard not to exercise judgment. We searched for the right words, but our search was drowned out as his voice and volume rose and fell in the sobs of a broken heart. Punctuating every tale were well seasoned, one-sided scriptures and ‘God strike me dead if I’m lying’ rants. Half a century of a broken life hung graphically in the air, as he had intended.
I took him for a whopper and fries! He devoured the whopper with one hand and the three teeth clinging for life in his mouth. Awkward. Before me sat a human being from a world of hurt I had never known. My judgement of him faded. We found common ground. We laughed at life and enjoyed common ground stories from our younger days. The man before me became human, relatable! I didn’t see it coming. Mercy triumphed judgment right before my eyes. It was awkwardly wonderful.
My final words to him that day surprised me: ‘Thank you for allowing me to be part of your life!’ Mercy triumphs over judgment at every chance it gets. He caught the bus that night to a desired destination and hopefully is beginning a new chapter in his life. I’ll never forget his sobbing and rage from a place so broken that all he could do was bleed out his story for us.
Note to self: Playing the ‘mercy card’ in games of judgment comes more natural when we really listen. Mercy triumphs over judgement when it really matters. And mercy should always matter.