A couple of months ago, I was involved in a conference call with a difference.
My walk to work is along a city corridor lined with dogwood, crab apple, and cherry trees. Most of the people I pass are so focused on getting to work on time that they keep their heads down and their greetings to a minimum. Smiles are out. Grunts are as close as you get to "good morning."
One day earlier this spring, when the morning air was still cool and the daffodils and tulips leapt out at me with real joy in their faces, I was halted by a bird call. It was one I'd never heard before - four flute-like whistles, the last impressively sustained.
Realizing that none of the birds had much of a place to hide among branches that had yet to leaf out, I took a few moments to try and spot the whistler. To my utter surprise, I was soon joined by other office-bound pedestrians - among them, some whom I'd categorized in recent days as preoccupied and unfriendly.
"Ah, you've also got your priorities right," I wisecracked in a whisper.
Conspiratorially, we waited for the next call. I found it hard not to laugh out loud at the sight of several busy people choosing to be late for their office calls in order to engage in a sidewalk conference over a bird call. How quickly priorities can change when you're summoned by (forgive me) a "higher" calling!
Joking aside, I tend to miss a lot of important calls - many of them cries for help. They come from children needing a hug or listening ear. From parents who are feeling less self-sufficient than they once were. From friends who are depressed, sick, lonely. And from strangers who often need nothing more than a smile and some help in crossing the street.
They require the conferences - the get-togethers - that really matter. Bible accounts of effective healers over the centuries confirm this, describing Spirit-led, ordinary men and women, who showed that through His love God is at work, healing and regenerating those in need. And I don't think we should ever kid ourselves that we're too busy to share this good news with people around us.
You and I can encourage others. We can renew their spirits with the same kind of insight that rekindled the hope of the prophet Jeremiah: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning ..." (Lam. 3:22, 23, Revised Standard Version).
A friend of mine used to joke, "God's mercies are new every morning because my messes are new every day." But even just through our smiles, we admit that there is comfort in the knowledge of an unconditional love for us. And that's the kind of love shown in God's readiness to pick us up every time we wriggle out of His arms.
Making time to help others is unselfish. Sometimes it needs to be tireless. Mary Baker Eddy, who established the Church that publishes the Monitor, wrote about a daily responsibility to render what she called "Christian service": "Millions of unprejudiced minds - simple seekers for Truth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert - are waiting and watching for rest and drink. Give them a cup of cold water in Christ's name, and never fear the consequences" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 570).
That really isn't about promoting a denomination. It's a way of describing the impulse and the opportunities that come to everyone to share a love that's more than human - a love that helps and heals. Throughout his remarkable ministry, Jesus never missed an opportunity to stop on the way to offer that "cup of cold water." He was never too busy to encourage those he encountered to claim the God-given wholeness and freedom that was theirs as the perfect children of a perfect God. The better I understand this firm foundation on which Jesus demonstrated God's salvation, the more effectively I'm able to open other people up to new ways of thinking - and thereby help them experience God's healing power.
Our sidewalk conference lasted no more than five minutes. We didn't, by the way, see or identify the whistler. But we agreed to consult our bird books and talk again. We didn't exchange names; didn't need to. We were already friends, brought together by a blue jay, cardinal, sparrow, or whatever!