It was the baby on the subway that got my attention. Looking up from my magazine, I couldn't help spotting her, bouncing in a carrier hanging from her mother's neck. "Tia," as I was told she was called, was a grinning, chirping, 5-month-old in a flowered "onesie." But it wasn't just Tia's utterly adorable baby-ness that got my attention. It was her response to the other passengers on the train.
Standing, clustered near the door, just a few steps from Tia and her parents, was a group of college students talking loudly about their less-than- savory plans for the evening. Most people were blocking them out by burying themselves in various choices of reading material. But Tia had a different response.
She gazed at those students with what I can only describe as pure love. This wasn't just a baby's adoration or a look of interest. From the expression on her face I'd have thought that these students were family members. The love was unmistakable.
It was a look I recognized. Just a few weeks before, I, too, had been gazing at my fellow passengers with new - or maybe just more childlike - eyes. Tia's response took me back to that transforming afternoon.
I'd been reading Mary Baker Eddy's seminal work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," when I'd run across yet another of her stop-you-in-your-tracks commands: "Let us accept Science, relinquish all theories based on sense-testimony, give up imperfect models and illusive ideals," she wrote. "And so let us have one God, one Mind, and that one perfect, producing His own models of excellence. Let the 'male and female' of God's creating appear" (page 249).
Models of excellence?
If I had to pick a place to spot God's models of excellence, it probably wouldn't have been on crowded public transportation in the middle of rush hour.
Passengers, weary with the day's work, were often irritable about the cramped quarters - and snappish. Office workers and college students, young mothers and the man who was panhandling on the corner earlier, all crushed together in an all-too-often quarrelsome mix, didn't seem to be promising candidates.
I was intrigued by the idea of "models of excellence." I asked myself: Am I willing to see my fellow travelers in this light of God's love?
My prayer on the subway that sweltering afternoon was to do just what the passage asks: To give up my limited, human view of the other people on the train and to adopt a Mind's-eye view. I reasoned that since I was Mind's idea, I could know only what Mind was knowing, see only what Mind was seeing.
Was Mind seeing His children - yes, my fellow passengers - as irritable, struggling, disconnected? Impossible! God, who is identified with creating everything good could never lose sight of that spiritual perfection. And as Mind's reflection, neither could I.
I acknowledged the presence of God's "models of excellence" all around me, and my perspective shifted radically. I started to see beyond the business suit or the grouchiness, beyond the signs of exhaustion and poverty.
What I began to understand was that no facade of materiality could hide the glowing reality of each individual's perfect nature, expressed as kindness, discipline, vitality. And with that understanding, came a feeling of love like I've never before experienced.
This was the effect of letting " 'the male and female' of God's creating appear." I was actually happy to be on that subway, happy to be feeling just a smidgen of God's great love for His creation.
Taking a stand for God's "models of excellence" is transforming my view of many individuals, from friends and co-workers to public officials and world leaders. As I've looked for the evidence of excellence - often in spite of the scene right in front of me - I've discovered a perspective that has made it easy (or easier) to love.
Yes, Tia's gaze brought me back to why I made my commitment to seeing "models of excellence" in the first place. Because loving, as the expression of Love, is the most natural thing in the world. And because ultimately, it's this kind of love that heals.