As I was leaving a presentation on the Year of Mercy at St. Mark’s Parish in April, I was handed a note by one of the planners. I opened the envelope and saw that two crisp $100 bills had been included. Instinctively, I thought the money was for “bus passes” that kind parishioners often provide for the Healy Murphy students and I smiled in gratitude. When I read the note later I discovered that the money was meant to be used as seed money for my students to design a “work of mercy” in honor of this holy year. I must admit that I feared that the timing for this project, being so close to the end of the school year, might doom it to a less than generous response.
I stand completely corrected and forever transformed by this magnanimous offer. Each of my English III (juniors) students designed a plan for how they could do the most loving deed with that $200. For many of them, it was difficult because their own needs and the needs of their families are so immediate but each of them reached down to the true essence of mercy and created a plan of extravagant kindness for those who are on the edges of the grid of attention.
Their targets included:
- the homeless who spend their days under the 1-37 bridge,
- the teachers, staff, and students of Healy Murphy,
- Children who are hospitalized,
- Residents at Haven for Hope,
- San Antonio Fire Department and Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs,
- Patients receiving dialysis,
- Mothers of newborns and toddlers,
- Shoes for those who walk long distances to work,
- Animal care and Environmental concerns,
- Textbooks for a student at St. Philip’s College.
Read all of the Mercy stories here. In order to stir up some enthusiasm for the project I designated a prize for the two best projects. The second prize was for a project that would give roses to abused women. The first prize went to the most impractical and risky yet most merciful suggestion. I include Anthony Ross’ plan in his own words:
I see her every day as I pull up to the Handy Stop on the Eastside. She just sits there in front of the abandoned house on the side of the store. She is in and out of cars of strange men she hardly knows. Different drugs are running through her veins. Things for her are out of control. I thought to myself, “What can I do to remind her that things get better?” I give her my last change every time I come out of the store. She tells me ‘Thank You” every time so I know she has some manners. I never see her in trouble with the police, just always on the streets. I hardly ever see people speak to her as they walked past. Some just throw crumbled dollars at her as she sits in the same spot awaiting another mission.”
I see her everyday as I pull up to the Handy Stop on Nolan and New Braunfels. She just sits there in front of the abandoned house on the side of the store. She is in and out of cars of strange men she hardly knows. Different drugs are running through her veins. Things for her are out of control. I thought to myself, “What can I do to remind her that things get better? She just has to hold on.”
I give her my last change every time I come out the store. She tells me “Thank You” every time, so I know she has some manners. I never see her in trouble with the police, just always on the streets. I hardly ever see people speak to her as they walked past. Some just throw crumbled dollars at her as she sits in the same spot waiting for another mission.
If I had $200, I would buy her a “Crossed Paths Friendship Necklace” from James Avery for $120 to remind her that even though she’s in a tough situation, she still has a friend like me that cares for her. The rest I would give to her as spending money. I don’t even know her name.
— Anthony Ross
The following week Anthony showed me a picture of himself and his beneficiary wearing her necklace and beaming with the kind of grace that no money could buy. The story is not over yet.
I sent all of the students’ plans to the kind woman who untapped the flow of mercy in my students, yet wanted to remain anonymous. Within days, she hand delivered notes to some of the students and an outline for future projects and 20 more $100 bills. She trusts that the Healy Murphy students know the faces and stories of those who most need to taste God’s mercy “like rain on their faces”.
The word “mercy” has become one of the most popular words at Healy Murphy during these last weeks of the spring semester thanks, to this noble woman who trusted students she does not even know to be conduits of money and mercy. Mercy truly does “twice bless” as Shakespeare said.
–Sister Mary Fagan