Most of us would say it's especially important to feel that we live in a safe place. To know that we can walk the streets freely. When something threatening happens, safety takes on new importance to us. I saw this not long ago.
In the middle of the day as I was out walking, I suddenly became aware that a truck had come up from behind me. It was on the wrong side of the street. The driver asked me directions to the local high school, but when I told him to go to a certain way, he said he was new in the area and asked me to tell him where the street was. I noticed that he was acting rather strangely, so I just kept walking and indicated it was the next street to the right. At this, he drove off - in the wrong direction!
Although I wasn't exactly afraid, I was alerted by his actions and thought it was best to report the incident to the police when I got home. They told me that they had been looking for this man for some time, and that he had already committed two felonies that day.
Immediately, I thought of what I had been reading and hearing in the news about the early release of criminals from their sentences, and especially about the concern citizens have over the presence of convicted sex offenders in their communities.
Now, when I encounter a disturbing situation such as this, my first inclination is to pray - to turn to my heavenly Father, God, for protection. I pray to see what God is knowing.
I saw this incident as a reminder to pray for the safety of myself, my neighbors, and the whole neighborhood. And, while prayer in no way pardons or condones a criminal offense, it must bless everyone - even the offender. I feel I have seen evidence of this; as a chaplain for many years in various penal institutions, I can confirm that prayer which includes a deep-felt confidence in God's absolute control can help to arrest criminal behavior and to release offenders from downward and self-defeating life patterns.
My prayer usually consists of acknowledging God's constant care for all. The Bible says in Psalms, "The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" (145:9). And we can always turn to Him as an ever-present help in time of trouble, as we also read in Psalms (see 46:1). In my prayer I affirm that God is the Father and Mother of all and has created us in His good, spiritual image and likeness, as the first chapter of Genesis says (see 1:26, 31).
From my study of the Bible, I have come to know God as the only creator. And the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the Science of Christ, have presented other Bible-based ways of knowing God: as Spirit; as all-presence; Soul; Truth; the one, all-knowing intelligence, or Mind; the source of goodness and righteousness. I've seen what this means - that as God's children, we must express Him in thoughts and acts of righteousness, freedom, peace, dominion.
Because man is God's reflection, I can claim these qualities as inherent in my identity, as well as the identity of others. This includes the victim of crime, as well as the victimizer, whether or not either one yet perceives it. And this understanding brings about signs of healing. We can reject the appearance of anyone as being evil or harmful. Whenever this picture is presented to our eyes (or ears), we can know that God never created a sinning mortal. This is a form of prayer.
I am often reminded of what the founder of the Monitor, Mrs. Eddy, wrote in her book "Miscellaneous Writings": "Holding the right idea of man in my mind, I can improve my own, and other people's individuality, health, and morals; whereas, the opposite image of man, a sinner, kept constantly in mind, can no more improve health or morals, than holding in thought the form of a boa-constrictor can aid an artist in painting a landscape" (Pg. 62).
Praying in this manner has not only brought me and others through potentially dangerous situations. Holding in thought "the right idea" of our fellowmen and women, I feel, can aid us in helping society. In a degree it has, I feel, enabled me to contribute to freeing offenders such as that one from the false concept of who they are - to better know their true nature and express themselves as God has made them.