Diversity was a fact of life at my elementary school. Like most kids, I accepted it without much thought. Until, that is, I became the target of bullying that appeared to be racially charged.
My parents contacted school authorities, but at home we prayed. I’d learned in Christian Science Sunday School that I could turn to God and expect to find protection and healing. It was natural for me to trust prayer to make a difference.
Our prayers acknowledged that both this girl and I were God’s daughters. The Bible says that “we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). So, we couldn’t act unlike our Father-Mother, which the Bible – spiritually discerned – reveals as loving and good. As I began to see my classmate this way, our relationship shifted dramatically. First, I wasn’t afraid of her anymore. Then, the bullying stopped. By the end of the school year, we had even become friends.
This experience has been a touchstone for me; it taught me that diversity doesn’t have to mean divisiveness. Understanding that we are children of the one God enables us to see others, even those who seem very different from us, as our brothers and sisters – beautifully individual, but having a common spiritual heritage. This view dissolves hatred and prejudice.
With more colleges and universities striving for better diversity, as shown in this week’s cover story, we can pray in support of these initiatives – to see diversity as a quality of God, rather than as differing skin colors, cultures, religions, or genders.
What does that mean? I like to think of this spiritual view of diversity in relation to music, where the principles of music connect and harmonize a wide variety of notes. Similarly, God, divine Principle, expresses the infinite diversity of His ideas, His children, and harmonizes them in lovely ways. Governed by this Principle, we aren’t just safe in relation to one another; we’re brought into constructive and beautiful relationships.
This was evident in my elementary school experience and in other situations since then. As I’ve prayed to understand something of the infinite, yet gorgeously varied nature of God, my view of diversity has changed from a focus on superficial differences to joy in knowing that God expresses Himself in radiant individuality. This has had practical results.
The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, saw the promise of this kind of unity-in-diversity when she wrote, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself...’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340).
As we consistently identify those we meet as beloved brothers and sisters, just as I did in my childhood experience, we can expect to see the powerful, harmonizing effects of this prayer in our relationships, schools, communities, and world.