Scattered thinly across the arctic tundra of Greenland and a handful of other forbidding, far-north locales, small herds of musk ox are making a comeback after teetering near extinction some decades ago. Their peril, unsurprisingly, was from over-hunting by humans, a practice now largely banned. But not much else is a threat. Not the harsh winters. Generally, not even their main predator, the arctic wolf. That's due to a system of defense from which the rest of us can learn. Their code of survival is not "Every man - or musk ox - for himself!" It's very much the opposite. Their action sings with care for one another.
When an arctic wolf is on the hunt, what's the musk ox response? The bulls and the larger cows stand shoulder to shoulder, encircling those most vulnerable, those most in need of protection, those that the wolf might most easily target. They're not left out in the cold to fend for themselves. Not for a moment. They're ensconced in the center of the circle. Surrounded by a sure defense that marshals the strength of every strong member of the herd.
That pattern in nature is one we've seen repeated by humanity countless times over the past week. Yes, horrifying images have flooded our television sets, our newspapers, and the Internet. But, increasingly, images and stories come through of almost unimaginable courage and heroism to reach and protect them. Firemen who put themselves at enormous risk as they got additional hundreds of office workers to safety. Or rescue workers, also at great personal risk, digging through the rubble hours and days after the initial tragedy and finding victims alive.
Or people like Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick, and Mark Bingham. These passengers - along with the help of other passengers - on United Airlines flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, apparently rushed the hijackers, thwarting them from crashing the plane into its intended target. Who knows how many hundreds or thousands of lives were saved.
These heroic deeds, where those most vulnerable have in many instances been encircled, protected, and cared for, illustrate a higher power. The presence of the Almighty shelters, organizes, responds. Needs get met. Horrible situations have some of the horror reduced. Rescues that seemed impossible do occur. That doesn't erase the tragedy. But perhaps it hints at a higher power at work, a divine power which, as we understand it more clearly, will reveal to us its healing presence more completely. Every glimpse of this encircling presence of God - which we're able to express more of the more we're aware of it through prayer - helps bring deliverance to those in most need.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "God gives the lesser idea of Himself for a link to the greater, and in return, the higher always protects the lower. The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 518).
We want to encircle every survivor, every victim, with whatever awareness we can muster of the divine presence.
Instead of prongs of a musk ox, we'll employ prayers to the Most High. Holy messages of assurance, of strength, of courage, pour in from the heavenly Father to fill our every prayer. God's protecting power, cherished in consciousness as real and present, helps ring the most vulnerable, even the whole national community, with a mental and spiritual shield that keeps it safe and helps the healing process begin.
Yes, it's easy now to buy into fears and stories of heart-wrenching outcome. If you can, it's better, though, to fill prayer with the Almighty's assurances that He is on the scene. His presence resurrects our hopes, fortifies our confidence, strengthens our resolve. We all have the same Father, the same Principle, the same divine presence encircling us with protection. Knowing this in prayer will aid us in ministering to one another, especially those in greatest need, helping them to feel surrounded by love and care.