From its beginning in the US in 1970 to the present, Earth Day has developed into a global phenomenon. According to Earth Day Network, it now includes more than 17,000 partners and organizations in 174 countries – and millions of participants. This year's theme, "A call for climate," focuses on the importance of addressing global warming.
One thing this huge outpouring of interest in the environment illustrates is how many ways individuals and nations are connected through a mutual interest in improving life for everyone. In the past, our concept of who our neighbors are might have stopped with the people in the next apartment or the next house. But today, as it has become easier to connect with people in other countries and other cultures, "neighbor" seems to encompass so much more. It could be someone you meet on your travels, an individual you read about in an online overseas newspaper, a foreign student at a local college.
This broader view of neighbor adds meaning to a statement Christ Jesus made. In a dialogue with a lawyer, who had asked him what the first commandments in the law was, Jesus replied, "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength ... And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:29-31).
From the standpoint of global warming, loving one's neighbor as oneself helps to make steps to improve the environment acts of specific love, not just a nice thing to do or a way to save one's own hide. Saving water doesn't just cut down on the water bill; it also preserves a resource for the community, reduces processing costs, and so forth. Driving less reduces one's own expense for fuel, but it also decreases congestion so other commuters can get to work more easily.
There are many steps like these that will improve life for ourselves and our neighbors. But it's also possible to go beyond these steps to actually "be there" mentally and prayerfully for international neighbors we may never get to meet. In time of ecological trouble – whether it's the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union, or a drought, a flood, or an earthquake – each of us can love our neighbor by praying for the health and safety of all those affected, including the rescue workers and other humanitarian helpers.
Such prayer is not in vain. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "The 'still, small voice' of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe's remotest bound" (p. 559). This scientific thought is prayer based on the conviction that God is ever-present good and that man – including both male and female – is His likeness, totally spiritual and thus safe from any form of evil.
Willingness to be an agent of healing for our global neighbors does more than make us feel good. It opens up our hearts to include a wider spectrum of prayer and commitment to others. Distant nations become familiar as we take time to learn about them and pray in support of their progress. Sometimes, we learn to appreciate our own country more, or we may see new ways to improve it.
The more clearly we see ourselves as part of a global community that requires spiritual as well as human support, the more alert we will be and the more able we'll be to pray about anything that might threaten the welfare of others, even if they aren't right next door. Jesus spoke of love for God and man as key laws that will bring harmony to our lives. When we let spirituality guide our thoughts and actions, the world will be a better place for us – and for our neighbors.