Having grown up during the cold war, when Russia and the United States were said to be enemies, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see a different side of Russia through a Sister City program. In 1991 when I visited the Russian Far East, I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but I soon found myself hoping that I would have an opportunity to return. I did, and I now spend almost half of every year there.
What kindled my desire to become more intimately acquainted with the Russian people is their innate spirituality. Life was difficult for them in the 1990s. Stores were often empty. The government-provided social services, which had included health care, day care, education, etc., were falling apart as their nation struggled with the implosion of their former government.
Yet their tenacity in hanging on to good; their loyalty, courage, kindness; the value they placed on honor; their sense of humor and compassion; brought a unity and strength to their lives that bolstered them and kept their hope alive. These qualities encouraged them to strive toward building a bright future. Over the past 20 years, a new sense of prosperity has raised the standard of living for most Russians. There is much to be grateful for in the progress made, but as is true throughout our world, there is also a need to be vigilant that our collective quest to obtain a higher material standard of living does not overshadow the value of spirituality.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, speaking of spirituality, wrote: “We cannot build safely on false foundations. Truth makes a new creature, in whom old things pass away and ‘all things are become new.’ Passions, selfishness, false appetites, hatred, fear, all sensuality, yield to spirituality, and the superabundance of being is on the side of God, good” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 201).
Spiritual qualities are a strong and timeless foundation on which we can safely build a future that is stable yet open to constructive changes. On a material level, change is a constant: technology evolves, politicians come and go, and seasons roll by in unending cycles. Yet beneath the surface, spiritual qualities continue to underpin the development of every worthwhile achievement humanity has reached.
Receptivity opens our eyes to new possibilities and brings innovative ideas into focus. Courage and perseverance motivate us to keep working until we reach our goals. Wisdom guides our progress by tempering excessive ambition and impulsiveness with prudence. Unselfed love teaches us to be inclusive, helping us overcome greed or indifference, which create unhealthy divisions. Compassion impels us to seek understanding, to help one another in times of need, and to forgive. Together, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness create a platform for friendship and form a base for world peace.
Every culture has its own form of government and traditions, but as we look beyond the surface, we’ll begin to see and understand the deeper spiritual qualities that transcend all that seems to divide us, and we’ll discover our native unity as one worldwide family.
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