Mercy at Trader Joe’s

A friend of mine told me about a prayer request for someone dear to her who was hospitalized with pneumonia in both lungs. Over three weeks his condition deteriorated and finally, he passed away. She had prayed for his healing but it wasn’t to be.

In her words, here’s what happened next.

A mutual friend asked me to bring food to the reception after the memorial service. I offered to take my “go to Blondies.” Trader Joe’s mix in a box, perfect every time, easy peasy! So a few days before the memorial service I head out to TJ’s. Three boxes of brownie mix and the required butter were all I needed.

As I was checking out, the cashier asked if I could bring one back for her. I laughed and said, “Sure.” But then I thought better of my response. I told her that these were headed to a funeral. There probably wouldn’t be any left.

I looked the young lady in the eye and said, “Covid.”

She responded and said, “Covid is for real.”

I said, “God bless you, honey.” I walked outside toward my car.

Suddenly I felt someone coming toward me from behind. I turned and looked. There was the young cashier thrusting a bouquet of flowers toward me. She held them out and said, “I am sorry for your loss!” I thanked her. When I got in my car, I wept. And sobbed. And sobbed some more.

This last year and a half have been filled with loss. People, friends who vehemently disagree about how we can live together, trust, celebrating, time, safety….the list is endless. But in the midst of all of this loss, along comes a stranger, who heard my pain and offered consolation. And touched my weary heart, by telling the truth and caring.

And, I began to heal from a very rough season.

Hi all, this is such a beautiful simple mercy. Funny how a chance encounter at the grocery store can help begin to heal someone else’s grief but that’s the power of mercy. I love that the mercy came from a stranger too – just another reminder to all of us that we belong to each other.

Speaking of which, here is a link to a podcast “Quote Me with Lindsay Schlegel,” where I talk about my favorite quote. It’s by anthropologist Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I would only add that it’s done through love and mercy.

If you have not already purchased a copy of Simple Mercies, please go to bit.ly/larabooks or Amazon. We can be that small group of committed citizens who change the world. ~ Love, Lara

Mercy: Football and Flowers

Over the past few weeks, I have been highlighting what I call simple mercies — small things we can do for each other that help us get through a difficult time. The one I want to share today is from my neighbor whose husband recently passed away unexpectedly.  They were a beautiful couple and had been through so much together.

One of the things they enjoyed doing was attending Jacksonville Jaguar football games together. So, I’m sure it was difficult for Bonnie to get a call from the Jaguars asking if she would be buying tickets for the upcoming season. She explained that she wouldn’t be renewing their tickets because her husband passed away. I imagine when someone close to you dies you have to have a lot of conversations explaining how life will be different now.

But, I didn’t imagine it going any further than that. Neither did Bonnie.  Still, a few days later, flowers showed up at her door expressing condolences. They were from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When I began this series, I really wanted to show the people to people connection. It wasn’t about business or even non-profits but just people serving. And yet, this act of kindness reminds me that businesses are not just entities but groups of individuals who can make a difference through the positions they hold. I don’t know who the individual or group of individuals were who decided to send my sweet neighbor flowers but I would want them to know that they could not have sent them to a nicer person. And, even if it only gave her a moment of sweet relief, she is worth that effort.

What I love most about mercy, about stories like these, is that we know they don’t end with the act of kindness. Instead, they are like waves of cheering fans: rising, spreading, and lingering long after all has gone quiet. Football or not, that’s got to be the best kind of win.

Hi, friends ~ This past Sunday marked a year since I experienced a spontaneous carotid artery dissection in my neck. I often say I was the stereotype of the “healthy person who drops dead.” Only by God’s mercy and the prayers of so many dear people like you, I didn’t die.

These kinds of anniversaries are strange – filled with gratitude, anxiety, and emotion. Sometimes I wish that our hearts healed as completely as our bodies do from injury but it seems like these kinds of traumas sometimes take a little longer.  But they also remind us how much acts of mercy can mean to others.  So for all of you who have gotten me through the last year, who sent up so much as a single prayer, know that I am grateful.  And, I’m more determined than ever to share the mercy you showed me with others. Likewise, I hope you are inspired to keep sharing your compassion with others, I promise it makes all the difference. ~ Love, Lara

If you are interested in reading about how acts of kindness can bring peace, my book, Simple Mercies is available for pre-order now at bit.ly/larabooks or https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Mercies-Works-Mercy-Fulfillment/dp/1681924536/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3F4TVB0MQ94V6&dchild=1&keywords=simple+mercies&qid=1619481953&sprefix=simple+merci%2Caps%2C163&sr=8-2

Clang the Gong: Sharing Acts of Mercy

Growing up I often watched The Gong Show, a television talent show where contestants would perform often dubious acts.  When celebrity judges were unimpressed with a performance it forced its end by clanging a gong.  I always felt sorry for the people who were gonged no matter how absurd their act.  After all, it took a lot of courage to sing about having a lizard on your head while actually having a lizard on your head.

I guess it’s because of the indelible mark that The Gong Show left on my juvenile psyche that when I think of the biblical passage warning against the boasting of good deeds, I remember the cautionary instrument as a gong.  “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:2) When I realized the scripture referred to a trumpet, not a gong, I couldn’t help but feel as disappointed as a contestant reprimanded by the merciless vibrations of a rubber mallet’s clash on metal.

Regardless of the instrument used, I believe in clanging the gong.  And before you swing the rubber mallet at me, please hear me out.  I understand that this passage warns against bragging about our good deeds with the intention of building up our own ego or esteem with others.  Clearly, if that is our motivation, we are not acting out of love.  “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal,” (1 Corinthians 13:1).  (Finally, a bible verse with a gong in it!) Love, as always, makes the difference.  It’s out of love and with the intention of love that I find that the occasional clanging of a gong a powerful instrument to spread more love.

For instance, I typically offer mass for people who I know are going through a difficult time.  Doing this gives me inexplicable satisfaction.  Through the gift of the holy mass, I can share the incomparable peace of prayer with someone who is hurting.  Its power exceeds an army of clanging gongs.  Not only does offering my mass motivate me to attend additional masses as a means of helping others, but it also offers a source of comfort for the recipient.  Particularly when we are going through difficult situations it is important for others to know they are being prayed for, thought of, and held up.  I know when anyone has ever told me that they would pray for me it fills me with tremendous hope.  Hence, I clang the gong.  I don’t do this by telling everyone I know or posting on social media.  But I do usually tell the person that I offered a mass for them.

Recently, a friend told me how she paid for an employee to have a hair cut in a salon. The employee was not used to such a luxury and was incredibly grateful for the kind act.  My friend apologized for telling me about her good deed.  “I know I shouldn’t be telling you this because we aren’t supposed to do nice things and brag about it but it made me feel so good.” Her joy was manifest from love, not vain conceit.  It was the joy of the Lord — of living her faith. Who doesn’t want to share that?

I told her I was glad she told me — that it inspired me and reminded me of the countless ways there are to show love for our neighbor.  The gong is an instrument mostly associated with a reprimand for empty acts.  But there are creative ways to use it as a different kind of symbol – that of love.

Hi friends~ I think sharing our acts of mercy with the intention to inspire, evangelize, or comfort others can be very meaningful. I would love to hear what small acts you have done for others. Please share – not to be boastful but because these acts are beautiful and on this bitterly cold day, I think we can all use a little beauty!

Also, if you would like to watch the segment of the Gong Show where the man sings about a lizard while he has a lizard on his head, here you go! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwEXSQXfBWc

Read more: If/then: God Loves You 

Small Mercies and No Cones

I’ve tried to have a good attitude about the necessary sacrifices of living during a pandemic. I considered mask-wearing a clever and inexpensive way to hide wrinkles, with the added benefit of no longer worrying about whether bits of salad were caught in my teeth. I pretended my stint at homeschooling was like a long (albeit dysfunctional) episode of Little House on the Prairie. I put away the Pinterest worthy tchotchkes on the desk so my now work-from-home husband can actually use it. I’ve done the FaceTime happy hour, the social distanced visits in the sweltering back yard, and the scavenger hunt for mundanities like toilet paper, disinfectant, and flour. But when I went through the McDonalds drive-thru and was told that they are currently not serving ice cream cones because of COVID-19, I was done. I tried to keep the hysteria out of my voice when I asked the cashier what the who-ha she was talking about. No ice cream cones?

I don’t want to get off on a tangent of how I am not sure if I want to live in a world without ice cream cones. And, I don’t want to debate anyone about the COVID germs lurking on the paper-wrapped cone that McDonald’s altruistically saved me from (or how I typically remove the paper before consuming the cone). I get it. Everyone is doing their best in this madness. We are all trying to be tolerant, make lemonade with this bushel of lemons, find the joy in the simple things, remember what’s important, and otherwise paint sunshine and roses over the choked vines of 2020.

But sometimes all of the ‘not that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things’ concessions we make leave me melting like ice cream on a hot summer day. Only now, I have to melt in a cup. I know if Jesus is reading this post he’s likely to put his head in his hands while wondering how he is going to save my whiny soul. And while a vat of self-serve ice cream seems like an obvious solution, I know that what will save me is the same thing that leaves me grateful despite the wonky and worrisome year it has been – his mercy.

One of the reasons that I write about mercy is because I know it’s the small things that we do for one another that often mean the most. It’s easy to think life is about the right job, the fancy house, or the latest trends. But those things don’t mean much when we are going through a difficult time. Instead, it’s the mercy of someone holding the door for you when your hands are full; giving you the benefit of the doubt when you’ve said something that would be easy to misconstrue; receiving forgiveness for something hurtful, and being listened to compassionately when you share your worries with others. Those are the kinds of things that make a difference – that remind us how important it is that we love our neighbor. Small mercies offer relief when we are tired, overwhelmed, overburdened, and over all the wonky and weird that has become our new reality. The simple mercy of remembering that we belong to each other is a light no matter how dark the times. So, let your light shine with warm and radiant acts of kindness towards others. They are even better than ice cream.

Hi all~ It has been a difficult year for most of us. We’ve all been asked to sacrifice a great many things — mostly cherished time with the people we love. We can all use a little more kindness right now. I am trying to be mindful of that during the hustle and bustle of this season. Acts of compassion are the best gifts to give —  and to get. How will you share mercy this advent? ~ love, Lara

Read more: Gratitude: Beyond the Glitter

Road Rage: Peace Out

I got flagged off the other day – not with an actual flag, but with a finger. I don’t know if it was road rage but it was unpleasant.

I didn’t really think people did that anymore. I guess it’s been a long time since anyone showed me their tallest finger.

I was picking up my older son from his first day at a new school and was trying to navigate all the construction and traffic on I-95. I realized I needed to get over one lane and no one would oblige the blinking request of my turn signal. Read more