All the teachers in the elementary school I attended were good. Still, my fourth-grade teacher was my favorite. She was an ardent birdwatcher. She scheduled several of what we called bird hikes. These stirred in me an interest in the creatures, an interest that might otherwise never have developed.
But I felt that this teacher disliked me personally. She'd smile at others. She'd call on others when hands were raised. She'd look into others' faces while instructing. But I was always excluded. She was fair in giving me the grades my efforts earned; but otherwise it was as though I were not in the room.
My Christian Science Sunday School teacher had taught us not to react to slight. Christ Jesus was held before us as the example of one who returned kindness for unkindness, in keeping with his own words, as given in the book of Luke, "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (6:31). So I refrained from mentioning to my classmates that I felt ignored by the teacher.
I'd also learned in Sunday School the importance of praying to solve problems rather than chattering about them. In my silent prayers I would acknowledge that God is omnipresent, and that He never stops being total Love. I would also acknowledge that the Bible says God created us in His own likeness, and therefore each one, in his or her real being, reflects impartial lovingkindness. My praying was always a comfort to me. As a result I felt a lot of joy about going to school.
Years later my husband and I drove through the state where I'd attended grade school. I told him there was one person besides a classmate whom I'd like to contact-my fourth-grade teacher. I wanted to thank her for instilling that love of birds. We were happy to find she still resided in the town. I gave her a ring, and she said, "Do come." She greeted us warmly. And as we talked, she suddenly said something surprising. She said she was glad for the opportunity to explain that she knew she had never paid attention to me in class. She told me something like this: "I felt I shouldn't add to the notice you already received as the school's rising young musician. I felt your classmates might tire of the attention given you. I acted as I did out of a sense of protection. I always liked you." She gave me a hug, and the three of us enjoyed our visit.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote something that explains why it pays to keep on loving. It's this, from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it" (p. 57). The love referred to here is the love of God, which I learned of in Sunday School. Understanding that this love exists helps to bring it into daily life.
The other day I had another proof of how love enriches our lives. A relative and I stopped at a county fair, especially to eat at a certain booth. For the sake of my companion, who was not getting around easily, I requested that we both be driven there by golf cart. When we were ready to leave, the driver acted very surly. I remembered about keeping on loving, and I went about acknowledging that sourness and resentment, which are not good things, didn't belong to any child of God, including that individual. God is infinite Love, and that man had to be seen to reflect God's graciousness.
The driver changed perceptibly after that. He insisted on taking us right to our car. When offered a nice tip, he declined it graciously and told us to have a great rest of the day.
Whether or not we're shown immediate evidence of the rewards of loving, as I was, we always will have the reward of knowing something far more meaningful: in loving others unconditionally, we're demonstrating that we understand we are each God's image. We feel close to Him, and this blesses us and those around us.