Have you ever considered how many times a day you interact with someone when purchasing something? You drop off your dry cleaning first thing in the morning. On the way home you buy the ingredients for a beet salad. Just before dinner you call your phone company to question a charge that’s puzzling you. Such personal interactions are a constant for almost everyone, providing us opportunities to express gratitude, graciousness, and goodwill.
How much genuine appreciation do we have for those with whom we interact each day? And are our exchanges based solely on our personal needs, which can sometimes turn our kindness somewhat cold?
When you read the Gospels, you can tell that Christ Jesus valued every person who came across his mental threshold. He healed the mother-in-law of Peter, his disciple, as well as a woman who simply touched him in the crowd. He talked with and then was a house guest of Zacchaeus, a man of questionable character, who had climbed a tree to see him better. Breaking barriers of religion and culture, he engaged a Samaritan woman in conversation.
The Old Testament often uses the Hebrew word “hesed,” which is commonly translated as lovingkindness, kindness, or love. The “hesed” of God was powerful enough to bring a whole nation of people out of slavery in Egypt, but gentle and strengthening enough to save Elijah from suicidal thoughts (see I Kings 19). Christ Jesus exemplified this “hesed” – a divine graciousness that embraces everyone. Looking beyond human appearances, he loved every individual as the image and likeness of God, the very outcome of the unopposed goodness of God. Emulating Jesus’ neighborly embrace is natural for us and flows from the gratitude we feel for that neighbor.
But how do you show graciousness, even magnanimity, when somebody has messed up? When the hairdresser cuts your hair quite differently from what you understood you’d asked him to do? When your intercity train arrives 90 minutes late for no acceptable reason? No, divine graciousness doesn’t mean accepting inferior service or letting oneself be abused. But that graciousness does help you express equanimity by not allowing your day to be ruined by some circumstance, and to be forgiving. If people, in spite of their best efforts, have messed up, your gracious support might mean the world to them and will help maintain your spiritual recognition of God’s ongoing control over what needs to be done.
Earlier this year my luggage went missing when I flew from São Paulo, Brazil, to Montevideo, Uruguay. I was staying just one night before going on to Argentina, so that meant that if my luggage wasn’t located in Montevideo, it would have to catch up to me in Argentina or beyond – not a very promising prospect. The luggage didn’t arrive through the night or early the next morning. However, there was a window of about 30 minutes between a flight on which the luggage might arrive and when I would fly out again.
The woman at the airlines counter truly wanted to help me but was having to do several things at once. My watch showed my short window of time ticking away. Further, another customer needed to be served before a flight gate was closed, and he was becoming vocal and making the woman feel helpless.
Through what I have learned in my study of Christian Science, a religion that teaches the efficacy of prayer, I knew that I had to put aside all selfish thoughts; trust the government of God, the always present divine Mind; and be there to support the woman and the other customer by seeing them in the light of the infinitude of divine Love. Expressing God’s patient graciousness was all-important, and I put out of thought what might happen if I didn’t find the bag in the next couple of minutes. Finally, the woman could turn her full attention to me. We almost ran to where the luggage might be, and there it stood in a hallway with two or three other bags. I heartily thanked the woman – and especially God – as I dashed to check the bag for my outgoing flight.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, in her main book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” wrote about the outcome of relying on God, infinite Spirit: “The calm and exalted thought or spiritual apprehension is at peace” (p. 506). Each of us has the opportunity to bring that calm, exalted, gracious, and magnanimous thought to all of our business dealings, whether big or small. This commitment can make all the difference to the person seeking to meet our needs. And it shows us more of our real individuality as a child of God, the expression of all-loving Love.