BOSTON — I love new york CITY, although I struggle a bit with brashness and lack of courtesy - especially among those yellow cab drivers. They'll swerve in front of me, honk their horns, gesticulate rudely as they pass, stop suddenly for pickups or drop-offs.
But two stories in The New York Times made me think again. One told of a passenger who admired a bunch of red roses that rested on the divider between taxi driver and passenger.
"Yours," the driver replied. "I always buy a dozen roses for passengers to enjoy, and then give them to my last fare of the day."
And an older resident, who gets around the city on a bicycle, readily admitted he didn't expect cabdrivers to give him any kind of break - until recently. That newspaper account explained that an adjustment came when, as usual, the bike rider ignored the words shouted at him by a passing cabby - until he realized the last word he heard was gloves, as in "You dropped your gloves."
Sure enough, the pocket where his gloves had been was empty. Then, as he pedaled back, a second taxi driver delivered the same message. And so did a third!
The gloves were lying on the ground, a block north. As the cyclist remounted and got back onto taxi-ridden lower Fifth Avenue, he realized something had changed. Those yellow cabs with their frenzied drivers were no longer the enemy. He now saw them as a bunch of people chasing a buck, while still caring whether an elderly cyclist retrieved his gloves.
Here are lessons for all of us - the obvious one being not to stereotype or label anyone, anywhere! Those cabbies confirm that there is evidence of God's goodness around every corner, of His caring behind every glowering face.
Even people who don't like skyscrapers can find them beautiful in the right light. At the risk of diverting you with a city-flavored pun, we could take a hint from the Apostle Paul, who said: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:1, 2).
And when our elevation and our perspective are right, we can be guided further by these words: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
How often do we fail to take the initiative in improving a situation? Honk back, instead of dealing with the noise? Slump in sooty, gray despair, when we should be illuminating every dark corner with the light of love that we do have from God? It's easy to be drawn into a lazy conformity and accept what others are saying about the crime rate or people's brusqueness or crumbling bridges. And this is at the expense of embracing everyone we meet in a campaign to show more principled behavior, unfailing courtesy, and real bridge-building.
Maybe we can begin again. How? By contributing the right thoughts. The kind that flow from individual prayers. Thoughts that God inspires in us. We can pray to understand better that God is the one Mind or Ego and that we, the creation, are His family of ideas. This will bring evidence that the thoughtlessness, competitive thrust, and surliness we encounter on the streets do not belong within God's family, of which we are all cherished members. To know God is also to find ourselves conscious only of brotherly/sisterly love, and to rejoice in the fact that God gives bountiful good to everyone. And not only do we receive God's goodness, we reflect it in turn.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, put it in a nutshell: "There is but one way of doing good, and that is to do it! There is but one way of being good, and that is to be good!" ("Retrospection and Introspection," pg. 86)
I have just returned home from a visit to New York, where I did my best to live up to those injunctions. And the fact is, my experiences there did change in much the same way they did for that cyclist. I had only to pull out a map to be approached by someone keen to help. Subway attendants were unfailingly courteous. Even cabdrivers greeted me like an old friend. Before I could begin to show off my "good works," New Yorkers were showing me theirs.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society