The fluorescent yellow background and the black lettering at first look like a temporary construction warning. I drive by it a couple of times a week, but can't easily read the words in the midst of fast-moving traffic.
Finally, I'm able to slow down to read them: Baby safe haven. Please leave newborn baby at hospital emergency room or a staffed fire/EMS station or police station. No questions asked. But information may be given. Thank you.
There's no mention of mother or parents – the sign doesn't speak of "your newborn baby." One can of course see why it doesn't. But still in its attempt to be both brief and authoritative, the sign seems like something from a futuristic film – as though babies can simply be passed along, and have no particular parents or family ties.
A recent news story about three newborns abandoned at intervals over several years in the same town, explains that from the time a safe-haven law was passed in the state of California, 182 newborns have been taken to hospitals and police and fire stations (Associated Press, March 28).
It makes me face up to a question: "Shouldn't those of us who have frequently experienced the effects of prayer be doing more to bring this powerful force to bear on this subject of abandoned babies?"
Having just visited a family and seen their newborn encompassed in the greatest joy and affection and gentle care, I can't help feeling that even one abandoned, unwanted baby is almost beyond conceiving – and that's much more than a play on words. It can serve as a clue as to how one can begin thinking and praying about this subject. In other words, society's mental idea, or conception, of children lies at the root of the problem and is what most needs changing.
We can bring prayer to bear on that need. Prayer by its very nature brings us into the experience and evidence of "things not seen" (Heb. 11:1), of the infinite good that is natural and present because God is real. A verse from a 17th-century hymn by Johannes Heermann has a way of touching the heart and making these "things not seen" feel close and tangible:
God is known in loving-kindness,
God, the true, eternal good;
Zion, ne'er will He forsake thee,
Trust His Father-Motherhood.
Can a mother leave her children?
Can unchanging Love forget?
Though all earthly friends betray thee,
Lo, His arm enfolds thee yet.
("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 76)
We can begin to see that God, infinite intelligence and Love, would not allow anyone to be unwanted. As definitely as prayer shows that all are equal in God's sight, it also deepens the conviction that each one is in fact His child. He never forsakes one son or daughter, despite sad evidence to the contrary.
A friend of mine was abandoned as a child and never knew his parents or even his birth date. He lived in foster homes and was abused. But after he found Christian Science, his sense of himself changed radically for the better. One of the things I've found most interesting is that his sense of bitterness, and even his conviction of the darkness of the past, disappeared as he realized that God had never actually been absent from him even in those worst of times. He realized that God's presence was constant for him, then as well as now.
Holding a newborn in your arms persuades you that the subject of babies – and not just your own – ought to be high on the list of the issues we pray about. Such prayer not only for the so-called unwanted, but for all children, will make a difference to the future of humanity because it leavens and alters the atmosphere of public thought.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel .