Most people who watched the Academy Awards on television last month would probably agree that one of the most sincere and unassuming acceptance speeches came from Michael Caine, who was honored as Best Supporting Actor for his role in "The Cider House Rules."
He began by saying that he especially welcomed the change in procedure whereby presenters no longer announce "And the winner is ...." Instead, they declare "The Oscar goes to ...." With extraordinary graciousness, Caine went on to describe precisely what, in his opinion, made each of his rivals a winner.
But, you know, it wasn't the first time this veteran of more than 90 movies had shown great thoughtfulness in public. Let me take you back more than 30 years, to a time when he was not so well known and certainly not ripe for Oscar glory.
Caine was making a film in England with director Bryan Forbes, and I was invited, as a starry-eyed young reporter, to do a radio interview with him on the set. He had coped with some tough scenes that morning, but when the lunch break came, he said to me: "Food is less important than talking to you. Let's go somewhere where it's quieter." And together we walked more than 300 yards to his dressing room to record our conversation.
Looking back, it occurs to me that the same modesty and kindness that emerged in the Oscar ceremony on March 26 were already firmly in place when he was relatively new in the business.
There are few qualities more endearing than modesty, and the Bible provides no finer example than that of Jesus. For instance, when his disciples felt overawed at the prospect of carrying forward his healing work without him, he insisted, "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10).
Jesus didn't fall into the trap of celebrating his achievements as personal victories. He understood that the "words" and "works" that really count - those that bring comfort, encouragement, joy, and healing to others - flow from an infinitely creative God. This caring Father and Mother is always present, always helpful, irresistibly powerful.
And if, as in the film business, it requires take after take - new angles, different lighting, fresh words, infinite patience, humbler prayers to achieve worthy goals - that's OK, too. It doesn't take time for God's healing power to take effect. It's just that sometimes it takes us a while to set personal egos aside and find the humility we need to let God, the infinite Mind, do the work.
The better we understand the infinite nature of God's blessings, the more freely we'll soar into realms we've never even considered within our reach. Spiritual gifts are available in abundance, and fall naturally into such categories as wisdom, knowledge, healing, foresight, and communication.
"There are diversities of gifts," explained the Apostle Paul, "but the same Spirit.... There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all" (1 Cor. 12:4, 6). And Mary Baker Eddy, who established this newspaper, wrote that God, Mind, "... possesses of itself all beauty and poetry, and the power of expressing them" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 89).
God's universal gifts flow toward us in a constant stream. They aren't at the mercy of time, circumstance, rivalry, or career path. They don't need maturing. They are fully developed and firmly established in all of us right now; and a few passing clouds are no more threatening to them than a rain shower is to the sun. They simply cry out for expression!
Michael Caine would probably be the first to point out that there were many other people at the 2000 Oscar ceremony who have made notable contributions to the international film industry without due acknowledgment, or appearance on the big or small screen. Awards of any kind pale in comparison with the truth that in all fields of honest endeavor, the modest, dedicated, unselfish worker will always be a winner!
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society