Alone in a crowd?
AS much as some individuals in our high-pressured society want to get away from people and the demands of others, there are those who are sad because they feel no one needs them or cares about them. If we are the lonely ones, is it possible for us to feel that we are appreciated, that we matter to others in some real way? At one point, after growing up and living in the western part of the country, I moved to the East Coast to work in a large city. I don't think I actually realized what crowds of people were until I got on the congested sidewalks, crowded elevators, and jammed commuter trains of this bustling city. Yet, surrounded by these masses of people, I was lonelier than I had ever been in my life.
I truly felt alone in a crowd -- a crowd that seemed different and unfriendly. Learning to deal with this situation and the loneliness it caused developed into quite a challenge. It forced me to see my fellow beings in a whole new light.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ Jesus lays the basis for universal, brotherly love. He tells us, ``If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.''1 And I guess that was what I had been doing in my home area, limiting my caring and compassion mainly to those who cared about me. But here, far from friends and family, in the midst of such teeming humanity, I eventually was forced to realize that the only way to overcome loneliness was to love those that not only didn't love me but didn't know me.
I realized this could be a pretty tall order. But then I wondered, Are people today really that different from people in Jesus' time? Didn't he encounter materialism and sinfulness as well as goodness in those around him? Yet the Master said, ``Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.''2
And I needed to be ``forgiven,'' to be included and appreciated right where I was -- which often happened to be a crowded commuter train. For this forgiveness to occur, I saw that first I needed to quit condemning and judging, to give up the unforgiving attitudes and stereotypes that labeled those around me as cold, selfish, perhaps even criminal. And here was where the teachings of Christian Science came to my aid.
The Science of Christ helps us see others with Christly compassion, because it gives an understanding of who man really is, an understanding of the sonship and higher selfhood that the Saviour saw so clearly. As we learn more about man as God's likeness, the reflection of divine Spirit, we realize more and more that this spiritual selfhood is the only selfhood that any of us can truly have. In this particular experience I began to see that there couldn't really be separate, selfish minds, because God alone is Mind and the man of His creating expresses that Mind. I saw that God's children couldn't be cold and unloving and that this fact of spiritual reality could, and must, be proved true in my experience.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established.''3
Things didn't change immediately -- but they did change. I gradually forgot about what the people I encountered seemed to lack, and began to enjoy and appreciate what each really did include as God's loved, spiritual offspring. This forgiving, Christlike love radiated to those around me and surrounded us all in joy and light.
The conductors started to greet me every morning. The commuters I met every day at the station started talking to me -- about the weather, the weekend, or some news event. I couldn't believe the kindness expressed toward me. Even those I rode with who would never see me again were courteous and usually smiling.
This experience on the commuter train is just a small example of how love and joy began to make my life happier. Loneliness was replaced with true Christian fellowship, a fellowship that included everyone. I was so grateful to God for what I had learned of His love and His Christ. As Science and Health states: ``Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.''4
1Luke 6:32. 2Luke 6:37. 3Science and Health, p. 467. 4Ibid., p. 57. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Beloved, let us love one another. I John 4:7