PHILADELPHIA — Karen Willoughby was in the middle of one of the normally jam-packed days at the World Meeting of Families on Thursday when she noticed one of the maintenance workers at the convention center. The woman, she said, was walking a little slowly and looked like she wasn’t feeling well.
“I stopped to talk to her and ask how she was doing, and she ended up telling me that she was in some pain that day,” Willoughby said. “We talked for a while and I made sure she knew that I appreciated what she was doing for people here, that her work was appreciated.”
It was a moment of small kindness, of simple human acknowledgement that Willoughby felt motivated to share because of the messages she and others have been receiving from workshops and liturgies at the Meeting.
The days have been hectic for Willoughby, who has rushed from one end of the Convention Center to the other to drop off and pick up her granddaughter Kaiya at Youth Congress sessions and still try to make as many adult events as she can.
“There’s truly not a lot of room to stop and chat with people, but when you get a chance it means a lot,” she said. “People overall are being very gracious and very nice.”
Mercy, grace and kindness has been an overarching theme at many of the events.
Willoughby especially enjoyed a Sept. 24 workshop by Daniel Mark, a professor at Villanova University. His topic was “Home Improvement: Forgiveness and Family Life.”
Mark noted all families have some sort of dysfunction, a fact evident even in Scripture, especially in Old Testament books like Genesis. What is important, he said, is that people learn about God’s forgiveness and be willing to show that same mercy in their own family relationships.
“We learned that forgiveness is hard but we must persevere, learn from our mistakes and push forward,” Willoughby said. “In a family, mercy is important. Relationships can’t be good if everyone stands on their own rights all the time. That doesn’t make for harmony. We have to forgive our family members just as God has forgiven us.”
Mark stressed it is important that people seek forgiveness from the family members they have wronged.
“We must be able to say ‘I’m sorry,’ to apologize,” Willoughby said. “To forgive and apologize both require humility.”
She said one of Mark’s strongest points was to say that Christians must seek at all times to do good and to tell the truth with love.
“Even when it is hard and can cause tension, we have to tell the truth in love,” she said. “If you’re not telling the truth to someone who needs to hear it, you’re just being nice. The aim is to not just do what is nice, but to do what is good.”