Most of my life I've been a New Yorker, so the topic of crime has been part of the landscape for some time. I lived in the city over a period when violent crime noticeably decreased, and concurrently the quality of life dramatically increased. Now that I live in Boston where violent crime is up, I'm glad to know it's possible to change the current, having actually felt the effects of such a change.
Looking back over the decades of living in the Big Apple, I observed a gradual but steady change in the mental atmosphere of the city.
Little by little, the general attitude altered from "we're stuck here and miserable about it" to "we're here because we want to be, and although we know city life has challenges, it has great benefits, and those are what keep us here." Once this remarkable shift began, it took over like an unstoppable wave.
So, how does such a shift take place? Surely there are many factors, but I believe that one factor heads the list. Prayer.
Problems such as crime may seem too big or entrenched to respond to prayer. Yet, that is not so. Most people at some point have walked into a room and perceived a mental climate, good or bad. Someone entering that room with a few words, a facial expression, or even a particular thought, can effect a change in the atmosphere. Surely these sorts of mental atmospheres are not confined to rooms, but are also felt across a city, a country, or even around the world.
During the not-so-secure 1970s in New York, I prayed daily to God for the safety of all members of the community. Many people were praying. In fact, I had a memorable conversation with a stranger who told me that he got up very early each day before any other thoughts could interfere, in order to take in the pure stillness. It would establish peace in his heart - enough to last the whole day. From this reservoir, he would spread peace citywide throughout his day.
This kind of sweet desire not only is heard and known by God, but is actually instilled in our hearts by that very God.
It is innate to us. It's how we really are in the eyes of our Maker. Acknowledging the natural goodness of each of us made in God's image gets to the ultimate solution to the problem of criminal behavior. Criminal acts are not natural, but goodness is. This mental model of God's creation as purely good has the power to change the mental climate, bringing a broader sense of satisfaction and worth to everyone.
Mary Baker Eddy, during a Communion Address in 1898, posed this timely question: "Beloved brethren, another Christmas has come and gone. Has it enabled us to know more of the healing Christ that saves from sickness and sin?" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 122).
The healing Christ is God's message that tells the truth about each of us and our relation to all things. It represents God's children as beloved, capable of all good, as gentle, wise, and selfless, reflecting the divine nature.
Surely we can take the message of this Truth with us right where we are, in Boston or Wichita, Buffalo or San Diego. Each day from this point on we can expect to see the effect in the improved condition of humanity through faithfully holding this model of spiritual creation. As noted in Isaiah, "Behold, thy salvation cometh; ... And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken" (Isa. 62:11, 12).
He shall cover thee
with his feathers,
and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth
shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid
for the terror by night;
nor for the arrow
that flieth by day.
Psalms 91:4, 5