EVERY time I passed a certain classmate in the hall, she looked straight through me, as though I were a zero. So I adopted the same attitude toward her.
Then one Monday I got to art class extra early in order to have my pick of the new still lifes for the week. I started toward the one I wanted to paint (it was a beauty) when I saw that girl sitting there already. I hesitated. Then, very reluctantly, I sat down next to her. She ignored me. I ignored her.
But I couldn't ignore my thoughts about her: she was rude, feisty, temperamental. Then I wondered, Did God make her like that? How did God make her? Suddenly the answer to those questions became more important than anything else. The clear and logical understanding of God as infinite good that I was gaining from my study of Christian Science made me admit that God did not create flaws. God's creation was like Himself, thoroughly good.
I wanted to be sincere with that idea of God and man, to hold to it, test it, just as I was sincere with what I was learning and practicing of color and design. It wasn't easy at first, but I put aside my negative opinions of that young woman and began to reason spiritually. Reasoning spiritually from the allness and goodness of God, Spirit, is prayer.
Prayer is not a ritual using certain words. Nor can we pray with selfish motives. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, gives many useful insights into prayer. In one place she says: ``The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer?'' (p. 9).
I opened my heart to see that girl in relation to God, and not according to my material impressions of her. It was like a rev-elation! All that could be coming to her from the Father, from Spirit, was spiritual qualities such as kindness, goodness, intelligence, which she expressed in a unique, original way, as I do.
Those spiritual ideas of God and man flowed through my thought like a cleansing stream. I had continued to paint as I prayed, but wasn't aware that both the girl and the teacher had been watching me. Suddenly the teacher held up my watercolor before the class and said that it was a small masterpiece. The girl was also complimentary, friendly, and remained so.
When someone doesn't like us, and we simply try to get even, aren't we perpetuating dislike? Wouldn't we feel more comfortable with ourselves and others by resolving dislike in a mature way? Prayer shows us how to do this.
The most mature and spiritually-minded thinker who ever lived-- Christ Jesus--had deadly hate thrust at him and his teachings. Yet out of his mature concept of God as divine Love, he taught, ``Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you'' (Matthew 5:44). What a contrast to the immature desire to ``get even'' for real or imagined wrongs that perpetuates feuds and warfare.
The Christly way corrects immature attitudes and actions, but not through marshmallow sweetness. It requires full-flavored humility, kindness, forgiveness. Then ``small masterpieces'' of kindness will beautify our days.