Peace across the hall
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
During a time of world unrest, our church encouraged each member to pray daily, not just for peace generally, but to be a peacemaker in his or her own life - to forgive someone, to promote a reconciliation, to soothe someone who was angry.
After several weeks I had yet to find an incident in which I could be a peacemaker.
Then a friend brought me a plastic bag filled with gardenias. It was the season for gardenias in Florida, and my friend was sharing the abundance from her bush. When I returned to my apartment, I sat at my kitchen table to arrange the flowers. Suddenly I heard across the hall a loud crashing that sounded like a little war.
It was the young couple who had moved in several months earlier. I had noticed that they were alternately extremely affectionate toward each other or were fighting noisily, as they were now. They didn't speak to anyone in the building or respond to greetings.
Could I be a peacemaker in this situation?
In the past I'd been repulsed and not a little frightened by their unfriendly behavior. Now I opened my thought to God for the courage and conviction to acknowledge the goodness that's basic in every one of God's children, even when it's difficult to see.
I looked at the large bag filled with gardenias. Suddenly it occurred to me to share some with my neighbors across the hall. So I filled a bowl with the flowers and knocked on their door.
"Go away!" a voice yelled. I lifted up the bowl of flowers and said, "Do you like gardenias?" With that he threw open the door and pulled me inside, as he called out to his wife, "Come, look! Gardenias!"
She came into the room, and with a look of joy, she touched the gardenias in the bowl I was still holding. "It's our flower," he explained, "when we were dating - our special flower. I tried to grow a bush on my balcony, but have had no success."
We were a strange-looking trio, the young man wearing bathing trunks, the wife in an old robe, and I in my churchgoing outfit, all standing in a circle, touching the flowers.
To me this experience was not only rather humorous, it was also a holy moment. "You are so kind," she said, and kissed my cheek.
Their change in attitude and expression was so swift and beautiful. It was as though they were just waiting to receive and accept love.
The gardenias had provided me the opportunity to share, and God had shown me the way: Forget self, rejection, and rebuff - just love. This ability to love is inherent in each one of us; it is part of our spiritual makeup as God's image and likeness.
I managed to get back to my apartment before my eyes filled with tears of gratitude and humility. Their joy, sweetness, and sincere appreciation for my gift had revealed to me their true nature as loving, caring individuals - the nature of the children of God. Sharing with them had broken down barriers and opened the door to love.
The next day the woman met me in the hall with a smile and an unusual greeting: "Did you have a radiant day?" No one had ever asked me before if I'd had a "radiant" day.
I remembered Mary Baker Eddy's description of "day" in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Day. The irradiance of Life; light, the spiritual idea of Truth and Love" (page 584). And yes, it had been a day radiant with joy.
I was not aware of any sounds of fighting across the hall during the remaining six months we lived there. There were loving greetings from this couple and eagerness to help. When we moved to our new home, they embraced us and said, "We'll miss you." The peace offering of gardenias was the beginning of a happy change in this couple's interaction with their neighbors.
Being able to promote peace across the hall gave me hope that perhaps I could be one small part of the momentum for peace around the world.
Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called
the children of God.