A number of years ago one of my closest friends died in her 40’s after an eight year battle with breast cancer. Throughout the ups and downs of her sojourn she was open to discuss the struggles, the pain, both emotional and physical and the uncertainties of her future. In spite of that eight year battle she coined the phrase, “mercies in the middle” and went on to elaborate on just what those “mercies” were. For her they could be as simple as a cloudless sky on a near-spring day or as profound as the tender hug of one of her daughters as she returned from her school day.

This friend and that phrase imprinted upon my consciousness the beauty and necessity and privilege of recognizing “mercies in the middle”. Though my vocation is that of a clinical therapist, as a human functioning in this world I am not unique in experiencing the trials of life. I believe that these very challenging life experiences make me more able to feel the pain of my clients, empathize with how very tough it can be to gain perspective and figure out how to negotiate a viable and wise path through them. And along the way, even in the more dire and daunting times looking for the “mercies” can literally be an emotional game-changer.

What is a “mercy” that I or anyone could look to even this day? There is the smell of coming summer that fills our nostrils and lifts our spirits. It’s a combination of new-mown grass, clover, flowering bushes all carried on a light wind. It could be a cardinal that flitted across our path on a bike ride on the prairie path. It could be an unexpected smile from a stranger in the grocery store or a text from a friend that says simply, “I’m thinking of you today, is lunch or dinner a possibility this week?” Practicing the observance of “mercies in the middle” takes some intentionality and a desire to live gratefully even when sorrows abound. And interestingly there is brain research that backs up the practice of gratitude or looking for the “mercies” to make it an even more significant way to live. Blessings this day as together we look for the “mercies in the middle”!

April Carlson, MSW, LCSW, LLC