Confronting budget woes in cities large and small

A Christian Science perspective.

Across the US the story repeats with mind-numbing frequency. Cities large and small face budget gaps that threaten to reduce services, degrade safety, and diminish the quality of life for residents, as well as the quality of education for the rising generation.

What to do? Authorities don’t usually have much room to maneuver, and so they try, in countless ways, to spread the burden. In Memphis, for instance, city officials have scattered cuts across 12 out of 13 operating divisions. However, at this writing they were still nervously awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit involving the city, the local school district, and, of course, money.

Every city has its own dilemma. In Miami, officials face a mushrooming pension obligation that overshadows an array of budget-fixing options and threatens to drain off a fifth of all tax dollars. On top of that, a federal probe into city finances goes forward. It’s the sort of thing that would make civic leaders in most any city squirm. So, officials slash. But like their counterparts in other cities, they don’t always get to slash in areas they deem the least painful.

Cities of all sizes benefit when campaigns to close gaps get spiritual reinforcement. Spiritual inspiration and understanding, available to any public servant or private citizen, bring to light new possibilities, creative solutions. While the big fixes are usually already targeted, many small fixes too often go unnoticed. That can change. Spiritual inspiration and understanding are the game-changers. They make accessible to any caring person the capacity to know what to do, and to notice where it needs to be done. That capacity is inherent in God’s true nature. So, it is also inherent in your true nature. God is all-knowing Mind, all-seeing Soul. Yes, He made, and still maintains, the entire universe. He pours out unblinking attention on His vast creation. Amazingly, this focus on the big picture doesn’t undercut His awareness of the small picture, or of the tiniest details in remote corners of His universe.

What God does, He created His offspring capable of doing by way of reflection. As we identify ourselves truly, as the expression of Mind and Soul, we also begin to look elsewhere than to the big picture, and often spot the overlooked answer. We also begin to see the usually unseen. Christ Jesus seems to suggest this when he says, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” by the Creator (Matt. 10:30). It is because the Creator notices single-hair-sized details that we, made in His likeness, can do the same. We can see small, serviceable solutions.

The master Christian not only exercised the capacity for this kind of discernment; he also expected his followers to exercise it, at least in some degree. It was while in a sea of humanity, with thousands of hungry listeners turning to him for whatever was to come next, that Jesus turned to his disciples. One of them had noticed something small – a boy with a modest amount of bread and fish. Jesus saw what the disciples had helpfully pointed out. And then saw more. In the small cache of food, Jesus saw big promise, big enough to feed the hungry crowd.

Mary Baker Eddy saw the Science, or divine certainty, of true Christianity. She wrote the primary work on Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” It says, “The divine Mind is the Soul of man, and gives man dominion over all things” (p. 307). God, who is Mind and Soul, is also the one God who both knows and notices. The knowing and the noticing overflow with problem-solving power. Those who first noticed the boy with the bread and fish performed a useful service. That paved the way for seeing sufficiency right where the undiscerning saw only insufficiency.

Individuals in city government, and individuals in our towns and cities, reflect, in some measure, the Mind and Soul that are God. Recently, a private citizen showed up at a city commission meeting dealing with fire department issues in Los Angeles. The city faces a huge budget gap – it could exceed $500 million for the upcoming fiscal year – and one cost-cutting measure has been to delay the hiring and training of new recruits for the fire department. During the public-comment period, this citizen spoke briefly, telling the commission a detail they should have known, but apparently did not.

After some hemming and hawing, they unanimously endorsed a proposal that could eventually save the city a million dollars or more. One small story with a larger lesson for us all. An individual noticed what most of us might not consider worth noticing – a tiny detail, but one that pointed out a bit of bureaucratic carelessness and scored a win for taxpayers.

More and more, such alertness and actions for the good of all will be expressed, as citizens become spiritually inspired. Solutions to problems will surface. Corrective actions will take place. Woes that once loomed large will begin to give way to good answers.

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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