We did 10 plays that summer at the Tanglewood Barn Theater in North Carolina, from "Ramshackle Inn" to "Anastasia." For the four of us who were apprentice actors, it was a wild ride of building sets, running light boards, assembling costumes, learning lines, rehearsing. And we loved it. But as the youngest member of the company, I had to adjust to a new world of minimal sleep, maximum stress, and "anything goes." A world where it was totally uncool to talk about spiritual things.
And that's what I missed - the spiritual fellowship I'd always had at home and at church. Week after week that summer, I watched longingly as the family who owned the remote farmhouse where we stayed piled their kids - all dressed in their Sunday best - into a truck and headed off to church. I never thought of asking if I could go along. I didn't know if they'd want me, an outsider, at their church.
But the day came when I felt so alone, so famished for spiritual company, that I did ask if I could come. And far from saying, "No," they acted as if I'd given them a gift! They introduced me to the whole congregation at their little country church.
The people at that church made me feel so at home, even though I said I was "just visiting." They used some words I wasn't used to, but I appreciated what they said about God, about being kind and forgiving, about building a better life.
These new friends helped me keep my spiritual compass that summer. But they never tried to convert me. They just walked with me. Like sisters and brothers, they helped me take some firm steps forward on my spiritual life-journey. I'll never forget their unconditional caring.
Over the years since then, more sisters and brothers than I could ever count have walked with me along my spiritual path. And gradually, they've helped me understand something: that one of life's great joys is to help other people on their spiritual journeys. Not as an "I-know-it-all-and-you-don't" figure - but as someone who draws on the same Father-Mother they do for spiritual strength and love. As someone who gives without asking for accolades, or even a thank-you. Because the real payback for helping someone isn't in the thank-you's anyway. It's in the pure delight of seeing a life reconstructed, a marriage put back together, a mistake corrected, a sick body healed.
Besides that, here's the honest truth: In helping someone else, you're really helping yourself the most because you're letting God bring out the best and noblest in you. You're letting God's love take hold of your life and shape it to carry out His grand design. You're fulfilling what He created you to do and be.
These words by Mary Baker Eddy help me understand why walking with a brother or sister benefits everyone so wonderfully: "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).
Inclusive, on-fire, or even warm spiritual fellowship is the heartbeat of any faith community, whether that community is a family holding hands around the table in prayer, a backyard Bible discussion group, a church service in the mountains of North Carolina, or a chat on www.spirituality.com. Or, on a global scale, the 2003 Annual Meeting & Conference that's bringing thousands of readers of Science and Health together on June 2 and 3 in Berlin, Boston, and on the World Wide Web.
This spirit of walking together as brothers and sisters, helping and strengthening one another as one united community of believers, transforms any group of people into a dynamic, palpitating force for good - one that in turn changes the world around it for the better.