The sobbing woman could have been a Filipina hurricane victim, a Syrian refugee, or a bereaved mother in eastern Congo. But apparently oblivious to everything but her despair, she was crying her heart out on a busy street in Boston, where I was walking to work. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon to see people on city streets who aren’t in their right mind. When I do, I try to know they’re loved by God and say a prayer while walking on. But this day I felt compelled to stop.
I asked her if there was any way I could help. She shook her head and said she had lost the person she depended on most in the world. She said she just had to cry, and she moved past me. I hesitated, but followed and spoke again. I told her that no matter how she felt right then, she couldn’t lose the goodness of the person she loved. Good doesn’t come and go. It’s everywhere all the time. The good this man had given her came from a bigger source than him. She paused, but shook her head and kept wailing.
What strikes me most now about this encounter was how convinced I felt that she could break through her grief right then – that she didn’t need to suffer. It was as if an authority greater than mine was reassuring her through me that there was a truth she could understand that would help her. I wish I brought such conviction to every troubled person I see. But I do believe the practice of prayer that acknowledges God as the universal Mind governing and communicating to everyone prepares us more and more to help people in need. It’s a daily striving to see beyond the immediate impression of vulnerability and hopelessness, and to know that everyone has the spiritual capacity to know themselves as God’s whole, safe, spiritual likeness. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote, “Man, made in His likeness, possesses and reflects God’s dominion over all the earth” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 516).
I didn’t use religious terms in talking with the woman at first. I told her that when my parents passed on, I got past grief by thinking about them as happy and not separated from me. Even years later, when I see or hear things I know they’d enjoy, I often say to myself, “Hi, Dad; hi, Mom.” She actually stopped crying and laughed for a moment.
At one point she said that God must have sent me. Then we talked more about God as good, always giving us everything we need. She asked me to write down some of the things I was saying. One she especially liked was a quote from Jesus, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32). She said she didn’t feel like going to her church. I encouraged her – church is especially there for us when we need comfort. She said, “Oh, not my church. We don’t agree and have lots of arguments.” That made me laugh. We church people aren’t often saints, but I said that from my experience when you really have a need, even people who argue with you about some things will still want to pray with you.
I offered her my phone number if she needed support anytime. She looked at me in amazement and said I must be an angel. I didn’t hear from her, but a couple of weeks later I got a call from a man who said, “I don’t know anything about you except that you’re an angel. You healed my friend.” I was stumped until he named her. Then I knew it was the power and goodness of God, and her natural receptivity to it, that had healed her.
Since God is everywhere, goodness must be present – and able to heal suffering – even in the most troubled places. Anyone who knows that truth can help others.