Tragedies and treasures

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Last Sunday, I flew from my home in Ohio to the East Coast. I've done it many times before. This trip, though, was decidedly different. I was finding a lot of treasures along the way.

Let me explain.

In the aftermath of the Columbine High School tragedy, I have been doing a lot of praying. I know there are no easy answers as to how such incidents can be prevented. It's going to demand a lot from us, as individuals and in our families and communities, to begin understanding the complex issues underlying the situation, and to do what so urgently must be done.

But my prayers for humanity had me reaching deep within myself and asking, "What can I do right now and every day - in my own life - that will make a significant contribution toward disarming and eliminating the hate that erupts in violence?"

An answer came as I observed how relatives, friends, and neighbors in Littleton, Colorado, were comforting one another. An act of violence that showed a shocking disregard for the value of human life had struck at their most precious treasures - the people they loved. And now, in stark contrast to that gruesome massacre, they were caring deeply for each other. Immediately I saw an important contribution I could make: I could make a more conscious and consistent effort to cherish, to value, each individual human being. I could make it a priority to think the thoughts and take the actions that do that. And I could start with the members of my own family.

That evening, I thought a lot about my husband, children, and grandchildren. I prayed to treasure in my heart the very special individuality that God gave them. To do it more than I had been taking the time to do. When I said good night to my husband that night, the smile on his face showed that he was especially touched by the extra tenderness toward him that I was feeling.

The next morning, I prayed. I wanted to value each individual human being with whom I would come into contact. I thought of Christ Jesus' parable of a shepherd who, when one of his sheep has strayed, leaves the flock to find it and bring it back. In Christ's words, "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14).

What makes each and every human being valuable is that God values us. To Him, we are what He made us to be, His spiritual image and likeness. And valuing ourselves and one another as such is God's will for us. To do that, we must look beyond the facade of physical appearances, by which we so easily and mistakenly judge human worth. God is divine Love. We must get to know God this way. Then we can acknowledge that each individual, in his or her real identity, is loved by Love - is the very expression of Love.

As I thought about these things, a question from the Christian Science textbook came to thought: "Is it not clear that the human mind must move the body to a wicked act?" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 104). It was clear to me that a person who recognizes his or her worth as God's child, and feels loved as such, would not be one to commit an act of violence toward another. It's a very practical thing, then, to make the special effort to acknowledge and love each individual as God's spiritual reflection. To see him or her as someone whom God treasures - no matter how alike or different from ourselves that person may appear to be on the surface.

That's what I've been giving special attention to each day since those shootings.

On that airplane trip, I gave my constant attention to the business of treasuring each passenger as God's child. And I saw people express so many more smiles and kindnesses than I would otherwise have seen. Yes, it is easier to do that on a plane than it is in the busyness of daily life. But I have been diligently striving to do it, and I've been finding "treasures" everywhere I go.

This may seem like a small contribution. But then, the world is made up of individuals. What if more people did this more consistently? There would be less of the coldness and alienation that contribute to violence in the world. There would be more of the tender love that causes people to treasure life.

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