When Horton Foote passed on last week, he left vivid memories of the common man and woman he so respectfully depicted. This much-accomplished playwright loved his characters and enabled audiences to love them, too. Ordinary people can be seen through the eyes of respect, and that makes them extraordinary. This was true not only in his fiction but in his own life as well.
Several years ago a small group had the opportunity to have dinner with Mr. Foote in New York City. The atmosphere at that dinner table was remarkable. While some of the diners had jobs recognized as important, others did not. But during that evening, no one was seen as more important than another. It seemed that each was comfortable with himself or herself. A retired man who was having trouble getting used to his "insignificant" role usually clammed up when with a group. That evening, however, he was as active and contributing to the conversation as everyone else.
There's no doubt that the group was embraced in a love that was independent of human accomplishments and reputation. That love had a spiritual basis that recognized people as actually being the sons and daughters of God. This is inspiring, but at the same time it's challenging. It's difficult to see beyond what the merely human picture presents and to understand that because there is one Creator, there is one creation and it is altogether good.
The Bible makes that point in these passages: "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" (Mal. 2:10), and "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4:4, 6).
Knowing that each individual in his or her true spiritual being relates directly to God inspires us to look beyond what appears as the human status of others as well as of ourselves. The spiritual view of man (meaning all men and women) includes all that is worthy to be dignified. It was this spiritual nature that Jesus readily perceived and that enabled him to heal people. Human accomplishments do not necessarily reveal this true individuality, nor can they conceal it.
The Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy responds in part to the question, "What is man?" in this way: "...that which has no separate mind from God; that which has not a single quality underived from Deity; that which possesses no life, intelligence, nor creative power of his own, but reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 475).
Entertaining this exalted understanding of spiritual identity enables us to see that true identity right where a mortal seems to be. We are enabled to see through the impositions of heredity and mere human circumstances and honestly value people quite unlike ourselves. This broadening of viewpoint enables us to love more universally and impartially.
In an article that appeared in last Friday's Monitor, Foote was quoted as saying, "I think you can be a good person in many ways.… I have enormous respect for the human being ..." ("A playwright for the common man," March 6).
This respect for all human beings shines through his writings. And what may be of more importance, this respect is catching. As his plays take us into the lives of what appear to be quite common people, we find a dignity there that demands our respect.
Broadening our respect to include more of earth's inhabitants opens the door to greater understanding among peoples and nations. When individuals and nations have a basic respect for one another that rests in Spirit, they are more able to resolve their day-to-day differences. Understanding the spiritual nature of God and ourselves as His children increases our love. It uplifts hearts and lives.