A string of unexpected hassles magnified by sweltering heat and a blaring snarl of traffic stretched everyone near the breaking point that day. I raced to complete the move of my office from one part of Manhattan to another. Raced at a frustrating snail's pace.
Since no spaces were available, I'd double-parked my rental truck in front of the building. As is common practice in New York City, I left a note on the dashboard listing the building and suite number where I could be reached, in case I blocked anyone who needed to leave.
Late in the day, overloaded with boxes, I approached my vehicle. A young man jumped from his car, shook his fist at me, and unleashed a torrent of profanities. His main complaint, curiously, was that I'd failed to leave my location on the dashboard. This was not true a fact I gracelessly made clear as I grabbed the note and waved it in the air along with my own not-too-friendly commentary.
He, red-faced, dropped into his car and sped away, perhaps embarrassed at his error in front of his girlfriend. I slumped into the driver's seat ashamed of myself. I'd considered myself a bridge-builder across divides, a practitioner of brotherly and sisterly love, a healer. But here I was making matters worse, exacerbating a rift over something not even true.
I paused for prayer, asked for forgiveness, and even though I'd probably never see that young man again, pleaded for a second opening to be a better brother. In the smallest of ways it came later that day. Again, it involved a sought-after parking space. As I spotted the one I needed, so did another driver. In a moment I calculated the distances and knew I could beat out the other driver.
Then I realized: This is it. This is the opportunity I prayed for. I waved the other driver into the space. We exchanged friendly words. A second space for me suddenly opened.
True, this was no major reconciliation, no Jacob-and-Esau encounter. Still, I couldn't help but think of those brothers of Biblical fame who'd veered so near a murderous conclusion to their own rift.
First opportunities (and more) for healing had evidently been squandered by both sides. Yet, forgiveness, patience, brotherly love won the day. Jacob and Esau went on to live in peace and in love. Many generations later a kinswoman, facing a testing time of her own, summed up the healing stance that's triumphant in times of conflict: "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God" (Ruth 1:16).
We all have one God in common. One Father-Mother that confers our brother-sisterhood. One unbreakable spiritual bond that holds us fast whenever the complaint is untrue and even when it is. Whether our prayers focus on personal concerns or on the headline tragedies of the Middle East, botched opportunities for reconciliation never mean no opportunities.
It is the nature of God, divine Mind, who has endless love for all, to preserve as inextinguishable the possibility and the promise of renewed love. Therefore, of all the feelings we might have right now, defeat and disunity don't need to predominate.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, "With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pgs. 469470).
What constitutes an Esau-like turnabout, from marching an army toward battle to weeping with and embracing a brother or sister, is that spiritual inclination inherent in us all, no matter how deeply buried. That inclination to reach out a second time or, if needed, a ten millionth time in the spirit of brotherhood that the one divine Mind of the universe has given to each one of us.
It's never the shot of an artillery shell that settles a dispute. It is the second, or perhaps ten millionth shot at being a better brother or sister. Divine Love itself impels and assures the success of this ongoing endeavor.