What's the best response when someone on the street approaches you, begging for money? Some set a hard and fast rule – always give or never give. Others decide based on each encounter.
Whether or not to respond with money is an individual decision, of course, but you can always respond mentally. One way is by recognizing the person as your equal in God's eyes. In truth, he or she is your spiritual brother or sister and deserves to be thought of that way.
But sometimes that's easier said than done. Feelings of aggravation, embarrassment, fear, or pity may flare up before thoughts of brotherly love come to mind. Perhaps an acronym – SMILE – can help. SMILE reminds us to See Man In Love's Embrace, to see each individual as the child of God, worthy of God's love and ours. It's not trite, Pollyannaish, or merely an intellectual activity to stop thinking of someone as downtrodden, hopeless, or helpless, and start seeing his or her spiritual nature instead. On the contrary, it's the most natural, satisfying, and powerful response we can have as reflections of divine Love.
In spite of appearances, everyone is actually made in the image and likeness of God, divine Spirit (see Gen. 1:26, 27). We all come from and live in Spirit. There's no exception to that rule. As the Bible explains, "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
The tricky part is to understand that no matter how powerful material existence appears to be, it's not backed by divine authority. God, divine Spirit, is All – all power and all presence. There's no place in Spirit where matter could exist and no way for matter to alter what Spirit creates. With that understanding, we can see how a dire situation might persuade someone to beg for money, but neither the circumstance nor the act of begging can devalue that person's perfect spiritual identity.
Another name for God is Love (see I John 4:8). Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, wrote extensively about God as Love in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Describing Love's nature in familial terms, she wrote, "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (p. 332). We might think of that "tender relationship" as an eternal embrace – Love holding us close, providing for our every need, sheltering us from harm.
As we consistently – and persistently – see that those begging for money are within Love's eternal embrace, we lighten the load of negative thoughts weighing them down. Like lifting a sandbag off someone's shoulders, holding a spiritual view of those in need helps them stand taller.
If we doubt the impact of seeing past outward appearances to the reality of God's pure and perfect creation, we have only to remember what an impact that type of spiritual vision had on those Christ Jesus encountered. Take blind Bartimaeus, for example, who "sat by the highway side begging" (Mark 10:46). Jesus responded by seeing his God-given perfection – and healing him. Later, his disciples would do the same. Upon encountering a lame man begging at a gate of the temple, Peter saw something higher and holier than physical limitation. "Fastening his eyes upon him," Peter healed him (see Acts 3:1-8).
Explaining the Christ-like vision that heals, Mrs. Eddy wrote: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (Science and Health, pp. 476-477).
The next time someone begs you for spare change, whether you offer money or not, be sure to smile and to See Man In Love's Embrace. That type of spiritual seeing can open everyone's eyes – our own included – to the good God gives all of us, good that's present and right at hand.