How would you have reacted?
I'm a reporter at a large news organization in New York City. One day around noon, people were clustered together in our office, debating how we should cover the latest unfolding tragedy, a plane crash.
Should we do a short story in the front of our magazine or a longer piece in the middle? What would be the difference in our coverage if the victims lived or died? Should this be a cover story? Could we get a picture of the crash scene before our late-night deadline?
Engrossed in the conversation, I felt a sudden wave of emotion: How could I be wrapped up in such questions in the face of the horrific scene being shown on TV? Shouldn't I be thinking of the victims and their families, rather than figuring out which sources would give me scoops on piecing the story together?
I retreated to my office to pray. I considered these words from a poem written by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper: "Shepherd, show me how to go/ O'er the hillside steep,/ How to gather, how to sow, -/ How to feed Thy sheep" ("Retrospection and Introspection," pg. 46).
A gentle calm came over me. I felt at peace, and also inspired. I thought back to several Bible stories involving brave characters like David, Christ Jesus, Moses, and Noah, all of whom, through prayer and reliance on God, brought lasting peace and healing to chaotic situations. What stood out was the fact that they never ran from evil; they confronted it - and defeated it. I felt that I must confront the fear and odd fascination being bantered about, rather than succumb to them.
What was behind my uneasiness, really? The sense that we are simply mortals, subject to chance and danger, living a life that begins and ends, that is governed by forces out of our control. Through my spiritual study, I've learned that these propositions aren't accurate in regard to our true identity. On the contrary, we are spiritual beings - maintained by a God who is Love. God made us immortal. No, life on earth doesn't provide such evidence. But prayer reveals these facts.
Despite the disaster on TV, I was now bolstered by this truth of spiritual being. I had no doubt that who the victims were - who they really were - was never subject to anything but God's ever-present, continuous, and loving care. I felt that, at that moment and forever, God was supporting every single one of His children; that because God is both the divine Love and the divine Principle that guides us all, nothing but harmony, peace, comfort, could really happen to anyone.
I felt it was then time to rejoin my co-workers on the reporting team. But I had a totally new perspective about my purpose. Instead of being a coldblooded reporter, I understood myself to be a peacemaker, somebody trying to bring a certain calm and order not only to our staff but to anybody who was grappling with this tragedy.
I picked up my telephone and called several members of a victim's family. Yes, I asked them difficult questions, considering the circumstances. But there was also a mutually-appreciated opportunity to talk with them about God and His ever-presence. And I told each of them at the outset that it was fine if they didn't want to answer any questions.
That afternoon, I got a call from a TV station. The producer asked, "Can you get here in an hour to be an on-air commentator about the situation?" (Never mind that I had never in my life been on TV.) I remembered: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). We can, do, have the inspiration from God that Jesus had and taught his followers to have.
I was not going to proselytize on TV. But I knew that "this mind" would guarantee that I bring a spiritual, comforting perspective to a difficult story. I went on the air, never feeling a twinge of fear. And afterward, people said I had been natural, peaceful, gentle - and had made cogent comments.
Well, we got our magazine out that night, and our story was dignified and accurate. It was not sensationalistic. Also, that TV station, and another one, called me back several more times, and each time I was grateful - because I felt each appearance was another chance to express the healing qualities of God.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society