Mercy, Miracles, and a Cafeteria

About three years ago, I had what I thought to be a brilliant idea. I wanted a forum for anyone in the world to share gratitude to others who had been Good Samaritans in their lives, whether anonymously or knowingly. I wanted to highlight moments of gratitude, mercy, and miracles.

My motto would be a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who said, “Heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind.”

So I started a blog called “Mercy and Miracles.” But I never shared it and I only posted four times. Not because I didn’t see miracles, but more because I didn’t actually know how to make something like that work. Luckily, the rest of the world picked up on my slacking and you can find pages all over Facebook talking about the good deeds of others, the #sharegoodness campaign, and many websites highlighting random acts of kindness, including my personal favorite,

So as a tribute to those who believe in sharing this goodness, I wanted to include here one of the stories that prompted this idea.

A few years ago, I was in Provo, Utah to do a work training for some senior missionaries for my Church. During lunch, I found a nice spot to eat with the missionaries in the cafeteria. A few tables away from us sat a teenage boy with severe disabilities.

He sat by himself with a large bib on as he tried to feed himself the best he could. His disabilities made it very hard for him to control his flailing arms, but he was able to get some food in his mouth. Some of it didn’t make it and instead landed on his tray, his bib, or spread somewhat on his face. I didn’t intend to watch, but my heart was filled with compassion. I was chatting with some other missionaries, but I felt like I should go and sit by him.

However, as I was about to go, a middle-aged woman came walking toward him. She appeared to be one of the cafeteria workers and as she approached him, I wondered if the boy was her son. She had a towel and she gently wiped the boy’s face and cleaned him up. She carried his tray to the dish return area and then returned to take off his bib and clean him up some more. This woman noticed I was watching her and she apologized. She told me how sorry she was that I had to watch him eat and that it was a mess and she was embarrassed. She quickly escorted her son away.

I was the one who was embarrassed. I was not intending to stare, but instead was observing a Christlike woman in action. As I watched that mother clean up her boy and carefully take care of him, I imagined her doing that every day, every meal, week after week. I imagined her thinking she had to apologize every time someone looked at her son. And I imagine her never feeling like she was doing a good enough job.

I wish I could go back and say, “Do not be ashamed and do not apologize.” I wish I could go back and just listen to that mother’s story. My observation was not that of astonishment for the way the boy ate. It was not intended to elicit an apology. It instead was a swelling in my heart and a new understanding of the word charity. Without a word of thanks or brilliant accolades for her service, this woman works day in and day out to support a child who she loves. By the way she treated him, I can tell he is a blessing to her, too. I hope someday I will find that mother again and let her know what her example taught me of love. Or maybe somehow in my wide network, someone knows this woman, too. If you do, give her a hug from me.


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2 Replies to “Mercy, Miracles, and a Cafeteria”

  1. I want to hug that woman!

  2. Thanks for sharing this story, Liz!

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